Veteran center Al Horford faced unfamiliar territory a game before the NBA All-Star break where he was removed from the Philadelphia 76ers‘ starting lineup and served as the primary backup for the face of the franchise, Joel Embiid. Horford received the same treatment in the Sixers’ 112-104 overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets where he only played 19 minutes and posted six points, three rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and one steal while shooting 2-of-5 from the field. Though it’s clearly frustrating Horford, the decision of Sixers Head Coach Brett Brown to demote him to the bench turned out to be beneficial for the Sixers.
As of now, they are on a four-game winning streak, sitting in the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference with a 35-21 record. Despite the demotion, Brown made it clear in a recent interview with Tim Bontemps of ESPN that he hasn’t lost his faith in the veteran big man. Brown said that he still believes in what Horford could do on both ends of the floor and wants him to continue helping them when the real battle begins in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
“There’s a human side of this I take a lot of pride in, and figuring that side out as best as I can,” Brown said. “Relationships and communication rule our sort of world in many jobs, and certainly does in mine. He’s a prideful man. He’s got a history… he has been rewarded with the contract that he has, and [I’m] just keeping it very straight, very clean, very quick… ‘This is how I see it. This is how I see it, this way.’ And not being apologetic about it. I want to help him help us.”
Last summer, the Sixers handed Horford a four-year, $100 million contract with the hope that adding him to their core of Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Josh Richardson would give them a better chance of fully dominating the Eastern Conference and contending for the NBA championship title in the 2019-20 NBA season. Unfortunately, though he’s capable of stretching the floor and playing at the power forward position, Horford still failed to co-exist with Embiid in the Sixers’ frontcourt.
As Bontemps noted, the Horford-Embiid pairing has been a disaster this season. When both of them were on the floor, the Sixers were outscored by 2.1 points per 100 possessions in 487 minutes together. The Sixers were also not doing well on the defensive end of the floor when Horford shared the court with Embiid. As of now, Brown hasn’t given any statement whether Horford’s demotion will be permanent. Their upcoming game against the Milwaukee Bucks is expected to give a major hint if Horford will remain on the bench for the rest of the 2019-20 NBA season or not.