Sixers Notes: Embiid, Okafor, Noel, McConnell

The Sixers may be ready to abandon their experiment of pairing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor in the starting lineup, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The move has come under heavy criticism as Philadelphia is just 1-5 with both big men starting. Pompey notes that the pairing forces Embiid to play out of position at power forward, where he has looked uncomfortable on offense and often gets pulled away from the basket on defense. Embiid sat out Thursday’s game at Utah because it was the first of a back-to-back, and coach Brett Brown wouldn’t commit to starting him and Okafor tonight in Denver. “We’ll figure that out,” Brown said. “I feel like when you study the numbers, look at gut feel, it has not been, at the moment, successful.”

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Backup big man Nerlens Noel played 22 minutes Thursday, the most court time he has seen this season, according to Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly. Since returning from a knee injury, Noel has been unhappy with his lack of minutes and has been a frequent critic of the team’s abundance of big men. While he is considered a likely candidate to be traded before the February 23rd deadline, Noel is trying to help the team however he can while still in Philadelphia. “I’m just thankful,” Noel said. “Coach gave me an opportunity and I wanted to go out there and play my game. That’s what my focus was the whole night. Whenever I was in there, I wanted to contribute to the team’s winning efforts. When I wasn’t, I wanted to support my teammates to the best of my ability.” 
  • Injuries have left T.J. McConnell as the only healthy point guard for tonight’s game, Pompey writes in a separate story. A sprained left ankle suffered by Sergio Rodriguez means McConnell will be in the starting lineup tonight, with shooting guard Nik Stauskas as his backup. What looked to be a position of strength in training camp has been decimated by Ben Simmons‘ broken foot and Jerryd Bayless‘ season-ending wrist surgery.
  • Thursday’s Sixers-Jazz game was a reminder of the impact of international basketball, Pompey states in another story. The teams have a combined 14 players on their rosters from outside the United States. “Basketball is all over the world,” said Turkish native Ersan Ilyasova. “Obviously in Europe, it’s still more like a soccer thing. But still, a lot of kids play and follow basketball, especially the NBA.”
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