With Joel Embiid and Boban Marjanovic out, Jonah Bolden might be shifting Sixers' backup center situation


Jonah Bolden has seen quite a few things in his first NBA season. He’s suffered injuries, played in the G League, started, come off the bench. It sure feels as if he’s played more than 33 NBA games. 

And after game No. 33, a 120-117 loss to the Warriors on Saturday night (see observations), Bolden looks like he deserves a shot at meaningful playoff minutes for the Sixers.

With Joel Embiid (left knee tendinitis) and Boban Marjanovic (bone bruise and right knee sprain) out, Bolden has started the Sixers’ last two games, and he’s impressed. He’s shot a combined 10 for 12 with 26 points, six rebounds, two blocks and just one turnover. 

After missing 15 of his first 17 three-point NBA attempts, Bolden has nailed 20 of his last 45 (44.4 percent).

The 6-foot-10 Australian said he never lost faith in his jumper.

“Not going away from what I do,” he said. “I can go a couple games where my shot’s not falling and I’m not going to think any less of myself. I’ve always thought I could shoot from Day 1, so it was just a matter of time. Getting the opportunity, learning with the guys and being in the right spots.”

Through all the changes, Bolden has stayed confident in himself. He’s the type of rookie who likes his prospects against six-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, shoots without hesitation and makes savvy fashion decisions like wearing a retro Phillies uniform on the day of Bryce Harper’s introductory press conference. 

"The coaches have helped," Bolden said. "Coach [Jim] O’Brien came up to me a couple of times, telling me, ‘Stay locked in.’ You never know. The league’s very opportunistic. Coach likes to talk about we’ve had three teams this year. With each team, my role has shifted or my opportunities have risen or lessened. I’m not really taking in the negatives, moreso just waiting for the opportunity. The opportunity is here and I’m just making the most of it."

Bolden’s game can still be rough around the edges. He’s cut down on his turnovers recently, but foul trouble remains an issue — he picked up his fifth early in the fourth quarter against Golden State. Though it’s a problem he’s aware of, he doesn’t want concern over fouls to have an excessive influence on his game. 

“Nah, not really,” he said of whether there’s a way he can avoid foul trouble in the future. “Obviously it’s not good, but I’m not going to take away from my defensive ability by stepping off and not doing what I need to do, foul or not.”

Soon enough, Embiid and Marjanovic will be back, and the doubt over Bolden’s role will yet again resurface. The concerns about his rookie mistakes — the turnovers, the fouls, appearing not to properly follow the play on one after-timeout set Saturday night — will still be there. 

Ultimately, they might lead Brown not to trust Bolden in the playoffs. But given Marjanovic’s struggles against more agile big men and Bolden's recent resurgence, he's at least inserted himself into the discussion. 

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