76ers' Joel Embiid Disagrees with Load Management, Says He Improves the More He Plays

Adam WellsApril 14, 2022

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 7: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers takes part in warm up before playing the Toronto Raptors during the first half of their basketball game at the Scotiabank Arena on April 7, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Most NBA teams are careful to monitor the minutes of their best players, but Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid thinks the approach can go too far at times. 

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Embiid said he doesn't agree with load management because he performs better the more he plays. 

"The more I play, the better it gets, because if I'm playing every two days, that means I don't get out of shape," he explained. "I keep continuing what I've been doing and I stayed healthier."

If you want to put an official start date on "load management" in the NBA, it would probably be November 29, 2012. On that day, the San Antonio Spurs elected to send Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green back to San Antonio prior to a game against the Miami Heat. 

The Spurs-Heat game was the finale of a six-game road trip that saw San Antonio play four games in five days from Nov. 25-29. 

NBA Commissioner David Stern was so angry about the decision that he issued a statement prior to tipoff of the Spurs-Heat matchup and fined the Spurs $250,000. A Miami-Dade attorney even filed a lawsuit on behalf of himself and fans who purchased tickets to the game. The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed in March 2013. 

While that is one of the most extreme examples of load management, teams have adopted it for star players over the years in an effort to protect them from injuries over the course of a long season.

In 2019, the NBA issued a memo to all 30 teams stating that they could no longer use the "load management" designation for players given a game off for rest, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe.

Embiid's injury history made it an easy decision for Sixers coaches and management to carefully monitor his playing time, especially early in his career. He missed his first two seasons due to a broken bone in his foot that didn't heal properly. 

When Embiid was finally able to get on the court during the 2016-17 season, he didn't play in both ends of a back-to-back. The Kansas product played in only 31 games as a rookie before he suffered a season-ending torn meniscus. 

Injuries have continued to be an issue for Embiid, but he's been able to avoid the season-ending issues that plagued him early on. The 2021-22 campaign has actually been the healthiest year of his career. He missed only 14 games during the regular season, most of which came early in the season because of COVID-19.

Whatever Embiid has been doing to get ready for games this season has been working. The 28-year-old led the league in scoring (30.6 points per game) in 68 starts. 

Embiid will be leading the 76ers into the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year. They will open the postseason against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.