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76ers might be willing to play Joel Embiid back-to-back nights

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, of Cameroon, plays against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Joel Embiid’s minutes continue to rise, and now he wants more.

Embiid played a preseason-high 20 minutes against the Pistons on Saturday, making five of his eight shots for 15 points with five rebounds.

While those look like good numbers, the real news was before the game, when Embiid proclaimed that he would like to play on back-to-back nights and Sixers coach Brett Brown sounded like he is now open to dropping the team’s back-to-back restriction.

“That is still on the table,” Brown told reporters before the Sixers hosted the pistons on Saturday. “We’re considering it. It’s progressed from ‘no back-to-backs’ to ‘we are looking at it.’”

Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said back at the start of training camp that Embiid would not play both games of back-to-back sets this season. However, it doesn’t sound like Embiid is having any of that. The Sixers have 17 back-to-back games this season and after sitting on the sidelines for two years, he doesn’t want to watch anymore.

“I don’t want to miss any games, I am happy to be back on the court and I just want to stay there,” Embiid said before he Sixers preseason game on Saturday.

Ironically, the Sixers might need more of Embiid.

Who would have thought after missing two seasons with a foot injury that he would be the healthiest of the Sixers’ big men?

Coach Brown had hoped to experiment with different line-ups during this preseason, but so far that hasn’t been able to happen due to injuries to Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.

Okafor has yet to play this preseason as he recovers from knee surgery he had in March. Brown said he anticipates Okafor will be ready for the start of the regular season next Wednesday night, which would take some of the minutes from Embiid — though Okafor would be on a minutes restriction.

Then there is Noel, who strained his groin back on Oct. 6. He did receive treatment and took part in some drills on Friday. Brown stated on Saturday that it doesn’t appear like he will be ready to play in the opener, but it’s unclear what his role might be when he is finally ready to return. Whatever it is will most likely will affect Embiid’s minutes in some capacity.

At one point it appeared the Sixers would have a log-jam at the center position, now they’re getting about 18-20 minutes from Embiid, while Richuan Holmes is getting a majority of the remaining center minutes — making the most of his opportunity, ranking second on the Sixers in scoring (12.4 ppg), and first in rebounding (7.4 rpg) this preseason.

“You had three, five-men, now you got one that plays 20 minutes per game,” Brown said.  “You try different things.  This has not been even close to being a normal preseason.”

There is no question that Brown is going to wrestle with sitting his prized big man. Embiid has been tremendous when he has been on the floor.

“He wants to score, he wants to dominate with a passion,” Brown explained after the Sixers loss to the Pistons.  “You can’t coach that and he has ‘it’, that passion and that desire; Philadelphia is going to love him.”

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