76ers center Joel Embiid listed as ‘doubtful’ for Game 3 vs. Heat

MIAMI — If Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown knew if star big man Joel Embiid would get on the court for Thursday’s Game 3 against the Miami Heat, he didn’t let it slip before practice Wednesday.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid wears mask while warming up for the team’s NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Wednesday, April 11, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

“I’m not really anything,” Brown said when asked if he was “optimistic” about Embiid’s returning on Thursday. “I am completely neutral. We’ll coach and plan and think like that until somebody tells me otherwise.”

Embiid has officially been listed as “doubtful” on the injury report.

The 76ers star said he was “sick and tired of being babied” after being kept out of Philly’s 113-103 loss to Miami in Game 2. Embiid has missed 10 straight games as he recovers from surgery to repair an orbital bone fracture.

Embiid practiced Wednesday, and Brown said they will go from there. He practiced with contact on Tuesday, and Brown liked how he looked then.

“I think (he handled the contact) quite well,” Brown said. “Quite well. But we’re going to learn more after we do very much the same thing today.”

Brown said Embiid will need time to get reconditioned — but not too much time.

“I think, because he is an athlete, whenever the time comes when he does play, I think it’ll move in a more rapid way. I think his body looks great. You just look at him, physically, his skin fold, his body weight, I think he looks fantastic. I feel like it’ll kick in quicker than most.”

When Embiid does get back into the lineup — whether that’s Thursday or Saturday — Brown expects him to make an immediate impact on defense. Offensively, he’s less sure.

“I think defensively, he immediately comes in and changes the landscape,” Brown said. “The game is being played so fast right now, and he has not been with us for a while, so I think the adjustment offensively might be a little bit more noticeable than defensively, initially.

“He’s so gifted and he’s intelligent — he really is as smart and an instinctive a player as I’ve coached. He can look at something without doing it, and then go do it.”

The 76ers have started Amir Johnson and Ersan Ilyasova in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Johnson had two points and seven rebounds in Game 1, while Ilyasova had 14 points and 11 rebounds in Game 2’s losing effort.

The 23-year-old Embiid leads the 76ers with 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games this year. Adding him to the lineup will likely change the dynamic of the series as it shifts to Miami on Thursday.

“Everyone’s happy that he’s back,” forward Robert Covington said. “And now we’ve got to incorporate him into what we’ve been doing.

“He’s been happy that we held it down without him, but he knows that he’s been wanting to be out there with us the entire time.”

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