By Connor Thomas
Alright folks, it’s time for a good old Philly sports conspiracy theory. Grab your tinfoil hats and gather round as we discuss an interesting thought about the Sixers’ roster availability in last night’s game against Portland. The first place that I came across this theory was from @RyanGilchrist92 on twitter, who tweeted the idea that it was possible the Sixers could have chosen to sit Joel Embiid against the Trailblazers for a reason deeper than rest. He theorized that the choice to have Embiid sit against Portland was also a way of showcasing the role/bench players that would be available to the Blazers in a potential Damian Lillard trade package. It’s a very interesting thought, and one that may carry more water than the average twitter conspiracy.
First, look at the Sixers’ schedule. It’s perfectly normal for Joel Embiid to get a night off, especially considering the team plays 6 times over 9 days, a stretch that started with last night’s game against Portland. However, it seems strange that the Sixers chose to rest him against a solid Western Conference team with a rest day following. Wouldn’t it make more sense to rest him during one of the two back to back sets the team has coming up? They face the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons on consecutive nights this Wednesday and Thursday, and then face the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks on a back to back this coming Monday and Tuesday. It seems like the best rest spot conventionally would have been to sit Embiid against the lowly Pistons this Thursday on the back end of a two games in two days stretch. That way, Embiid would most likely be available against the Knicks, Bucks, and Bulls. The timing of sitting the big man against Portland seems to lend towards the theory that there is something a little bit deeper going on here.
Now, the original tweet from @RyanGilchrist92 also mentions Tobias Harris’ absence, but reports are that Harris was scratched very late due to COVID protocols, long after Embiid was scheduled for rest. I don’t believe Harris factors into the equation, but his absence did indirectly create a situation where the Sixers could really showcase some of the players that would possibly move for Dame. And I’ll tell you what, the price went up for some Sixers ancillary players after last night. Georges Niang, Tyrese Maxey, Furkan Korkmaz, and Andre Drummond all had strong nights en route to a 113-103 win over Lillard, McCollum and company. Lillard looked far from pedestrian, but even his skill was not enough to help lift the Blazers over a Sixers roster that was missing its 3 best players. If there was ever a performance to make the Portland star re-consider his standing in the Pacific Northwest, this was it. If this theory is indeed true, and of course, with all twitter conspiracies that’s a big if, it seems like the Sixers executed their end of the plan to perfection. Dame has seen what is waiting for him in Philly, and the Blazers have seen what could be theirs in return. Now, we wait.