Slowly but surely, the much maligned minutes restriction that has limited Joel Embiid’s availability over his first two seasons is becoming a non-factor for the star center.

Through 8 games of the 2017-18 NBA season, Embiid is averaging 27.6 minutes per game; fifth on the Sixers, and up from the 25.4 that he averaged last season. He logged 30 minutes of action for the first time in the Sixers 119-1109 victory over the Hawks in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

“There’s no minute restrictions anymore,” Embiid said after the Hawks game. “It’s a matter of just going out there and playing. I know coach has a plan for me, but if I feel good - like the medical staff said - I should be able to just play as long as I feel good, and if I’m tired that’s when they got to take me out.”

The limit on the amount of time that Embiid plays in a game at this point is more of a feel-it-out situation, rather than a rigid restriction as it was last year.

"One of these nights, if I'm having a great game and not feeling tired and I can go for 40 minutes, they're going to let me.''

With his current tick, Embiid isn’t far behind other top centers across the league’s landscape in terms of playing time. Demarcus Cousins leads all centers with 37.6 minutes per game, but you’ll see most top starting centers logging around 32 minutes per game – not much more than Embiid is already averaging. Considering his size and weight, and the up-and-down style of play prevalent in today's NBA, Embiid is never going to be a guy that averages 40 minutes a night, so he is already approaching what will be his normal per game allotment.

Rather than a mandate from the franchise, the main factor holding Embiid back from making the jump from a 28-minutes-per-game player to a 32-minutes-per-game player at this point is conditioning. Embiid is still working his way back into game shape after missing the end of last season – and all of the offseason – recovering from the torn meniscus he suffered in January.

The odds of an injury occurring increase when a player is tired out on the court, so when Embiid starts to show fatigue, Brett Brown has been quick to call to the bench. When Embiid’s conditioning goes up, so will his playing time, and in turn, his production.

"The hardest thing has been conditioning,'' Embiid admitted recently. "I'm behind everyone else. Way behind. Once I get my legs under me, look out.''

“Growing his fitness base is going to produce a more dynamic Joel Embiid,” Brown said on Wednesday night. “Even as good as he was tonight, I still think [growing his conditioning] is the link to a whole bunch of other stuff.”

Embiid wasn't happy about the restriction heading into the season, but once his conditioning is where it needs to be, it's not something that's going to hold him back.


Follow Michael Kaskey-Blomain on Twitter @therealmikekb.

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