Sixers Coach Doc Rivers Experimenting at Center in Light of Joel Embiid’s Absence

Philadelphia 76ers, Paul Reed

Getty Paul Reed #44 and James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers talk.

The Philadelphia 76ers find themselves fighting an uphill battle heading into the Eastern Conference semifinals. Not only do they have a tough matchup in the Miami Heat, but they will be without the services of their star player. Joel Embiid fractured his orbital bone and suffered a mild concussion against the Raptors, and there is no timetable for his return.

This news is soul-crushing for the Sixers, but they have no time to sit around and feel sorry for themselves. Given that there is some optimism Embiid can return, they must do all they can to try and stay afloat in the opening games.

Replacing Embiid is almost impossible. It will take a collective effort to fill the void left by the MVP finalist. With little time to prepare, head coach Doc Rivers is weighing all his options in preparation for Miami.

With a few days to spare before the series kicks off, the Sixers have an opportunity to get some practice in before flying to South Beach. Following the first day of action, Rivers cited that rookie Charles Bassey was a full participant. The former second-round pick hasn’t appeared in a game since back in February.

We haven’t seen much from Bassey this year, but he’s shown some nice flashes. His best performance came against the Denver Nuggets, where he posted 12 points and three blocked shots while defending the reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic.

Sixers Calling On Their Veterans

Situations like this are why it’s important to have good veterans. DeAndre Jordan and Paul Millsap are another pair we haven’t seen much of recently, but that is sure to change. In light of the daunting task that is life without Embiid, Rivers will likely try to rely on his veterans.

Millsap and Jordan both have extensive playoff experience under their belt. This should come in handy against a team like the Heat. Along with giving Bassey some run in practice, Rivers has not ruled out the idea of giving all the backup centers a chance this series.

Miami is a team that can tinker with its lineup in multiple ways. If the Sixers want to remain competitive, they will have to do the same. That being said, it wouldn’t be surprising if we see Rivers run Millsap for stretches as a small-ball center who can open up the floor.

Extended Opportunity for Paul Reed

After an impressive series against the Raptors, the question arose if Paul Reed’s playoff minutes were slowly reaching their end. Since the Heat have a bit more size, many were expecting Rivers to go back to Jordan at backup center. Now with Embiid out of the picture, the former G-League MVP should continue to see time.

The main thing Reed brings to the floor is energy. Whether it’s on the glass, defense, or rolling to the rim, he plays the game at one speed. This should come in handy against a physical team like Miami.

While Rivers declined to name a fifth starter yet, he had some high praise for Reed. After commenting on his play with the starting lineup, it opens the door for him getting the first cracks at center in Game 1.

Rivers appears to be keeping an open mind as he gears up for life without his All-Star center. This experimentation is the right move, as all possible avenues should be considered in a tight spot like this.

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