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October 25, 2016

Sixers preparing to match Thunder’s physicality

More than anything, Brett Brown is focused on how his young Sixers team handles the physicality of the new-look Oklahoma City Thunder in their first game A.D. (After Durant) on Wednesday night in Philly.

And for good reason. OKC led the league by a mile in offensive rebounding in 2015-16, mostly because Steven Adams and Enes Kanter are big bodies that attack the glass with reckless abandon. Victor Oladipo is a solid, strong defender at the 2, and Russell Westbrook is the probably the most physical guard in the entire world.

Without Durant, Westbrook promises to be more Westbrook than ever. And with a national audience tuning in, the Sixers need to be ready to combat that brand of physical basketball.

“I think to feel like we’re going to go apples to apples [physically] with Oklahoma City, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m concerned,” Brown said. “We focused on it and talked it about it a lot all week, just the rebounding, the physical side. You better set screens.

“I’m convinced that we’re going to look back at this game and talk about how well did we get back on defense with Russell and how well we finished plays with rebounding.”

Transition and defensive rebounding figure to be key areas for the Sixers all year, but they’ll be especially tested in those areas on Wednesday night.

For Dario Saric, one of two Sixers rookies slated to make their NBA debut in the starting lineup tomorrow, the physicality doesn’t figure to be a problem. Trying to handle the moment of playing against a star like Westbrook might be a bit tricky, though.

“It’s a little bit weird when for two, three, five years, you play a PlayStation game against those players and now you [are playing them] in real life,” Saric admitted.

•    Here is what we know about how the center rotation shakes out to start the year: Joel Embiid is locked in at a 20-minute restriction, with five four-minute segments to play. The Sixers are still discussing Jahlil Okafor’s minutes limit, and whatever that ends up being, the rest of the minutes at the 5 will go to Richaun Holmes.

•    Brown mentioned that he hopes to feature a 10-man rotation against the Thunder, although he’s still unaware (publicly, at least) of how the point guard situation shakes out. When asked, Sergio Rodriguez said that he expects to start at point guard. Rodriguez, who probably makes the most logical sense of the Sixers’ realistic options, started the last two preseason games.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann