PHILADELPHIA (AP) — James Harden was out for the 76ers. Joel Embiid was in, after the reigning NBA MVP skipped a chance to rest and started Sunday night in Philadelphia’s home opener.
Harden’s absence against Portland was no surprise — the 10-time All-Star has now missed all three games in the wake of his offseason trade demand. Officially, the Sixers say Harden needs to “ramp up” his conditioning before he can return to play. Harden has continued to practice with the Sixers and participated in Sunday’s film session and walkthrough.
Harden wore a yellow hoodie and jeans as he sat on the bench for opening night.
Harden did not travel with the Sixers on their opening-week road trip and was told to stay back and practice with the team’s G League players.
“The report on him is, he had some good conditioning days,” coach Nick Nurse said. “All signs are positive, conditioning-wise. Just need to get in some live action.”
Nurse said he expected Harden to practice on Tuesday. The 76ers don’t play again until Thursday.
The 76ers only introduced their starting lineup on Sunday so Harden wasn’t included, but he did make the cut in the pregame hype video.
Embiid dropped 24 points in an opening-night loss at Milwaukee and scored 34 points in a win Saturday night against Toronto. With three games in four days, and the opener coming on the back end of a back-to-back, Embiid almost sat out, a startlingly inconceivable notion for the first home game of the season.
But the NBA this season strengthened its rules about resting healthy players. The league is already investigating the reasons behind Harden’s absence from the 76ers’ nationally televised season opener.
The policy prevents teams, without approval, from resting multiple star players (defined as anyone who was an All-NBA or All-Star selection in the prior three seasons) in the same game, or sitting healthy ones in nationally televised or in-season tournament games.
Nurse said the load management policy complicates the decision “a little bit” to play or rest a player like Embiid.
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