Nick Nurse enters the 2023-24 NBA season with quite a tall task as he begins his first season coaching the Sixers. It is now on him to find a way to do something that no coach in over the last two decades has been able to accomplish while leading the PHI ship.
Win more than 1 playoff round.
In the Embiid era, first it was Brett Brown. He went 12-14 during his postseason tenure in Philly. Then it was Doc's turn. You see the reason the Sixers kept coming up short was because their coach was a moron we were told. Doc, a former player and a championship winning coach was going to unlock everything.
He did a little better, going 20-15 in his playoff tenure, but still never got past that second round. As expected, we were told he was what was holding that team back.
Enter Nick Nurse. Another championship proven coach who now has to not only navigate the James Harden drama but also has to figure out how to finally find a way to keep his best player healthy for the most important time of the season. Whether you think it's his playstyle or just some shit injury luck, a common theme every year seems to be Embiid being hobbled once Spring rolls around. It's hard to make deep runs when your best player and the key to everything you do keeps getting hurt. That's true for any team, not just the Sixers.
So what does Nick Nurse have cooking as a way to solve this issue?
Nurse: I think that we are looking at it maybe a little different than people think we might be. We’re trying to get him to play more games. Our goal is that it’s going up for him, not not the other direction, and some people would say, ‘Oh, that’s playoffs. Is he going to be?’ We’re just trying to get it going the other direction. I think that’s just what our people believe here that he can play and again, knock on wood, cross our fingers, all that stuff. There’s always things that can come up with that stuff, but I don’t know. I believe in the guys playing as much as they can and let’s see what happens.
Ah, the old Thibs method where you run your stars into the ground until their knees turn to dust. It's good to see that Nurse is sticking to his principles that we just saw in TOR when he basically ran Siakam/FVV/OG into the ground. All of them averaged over 35 minutes a night and as we know, putting such a heavy minutes burden on a few guys is ultimately either going to lead to injury or burnout by the time the playoffs roll around.
So you can understand why the idea of keeping Embiid healthy is actually playing him in more games so he can tack on more miles on those knees/legs is a little strange. Some might even argue it's a straight up bad idea. As someone who had to live through a hobbled and never the same again Kemba Walker after Nick Nurse played him a billion minutes in a fake All Star game, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that there's no way this doesn't end poorly.
Of course with the new load management rules preventing teams from sitting two stars in the same game, I'm sure there will be some figuring out to do with Embiid/Harden. With that now in place, there's a chance Embiid does end up playing a few more games, but in my opinion if Harden is still on your team you just force him to play and sit Embiid. Then again maybe Harden's traded and that ends up not being an issue.
I will also say that for all the injury jokes about Embiid, he's actually been relatively available during each of the last two seasons. He played 68 games in 2021-22 and 66 last year, which I feel is around the number most stars (especially bigs) can be expected to play in today's NBA. Nobody is playing 75+ games anymore. It's not like he played 40 games last year and you need to get that up to a more respectable number. I feel like 65ish games is the sweet spot for someone like Embiid. Now that he finally has his MVP you don't need to push him, all the focus should be around keeping him healthy for when the games truly matter. Don't play him on B2Bs if you can, find him rest days, these are all things that seem like a no brainer, and here we have Nurse going in the complete opposite direction
As a Celts guy, all I want is for the best players in the league to be healthy, even Joel Embiid despite the fact that he plays for the Sixers. Injuries fucking stink. Watching Embiid play basketball is pretty fun given how dominant he can be, so this news would terrify me as a Sixers fan. Nick Nurse should probably realize that Philly is not Toronto. Nobody really gave a shit what the Raptors did (no offense), but that is not going to fly in his new city. You break Embiid, that fanbase is going to run you out of that town so fast it'll make your head spin.