The Philadelphia 76ers gave Al Horford a four-year, $109 million contract in the 2019 NBA free agency with the hope that he could help Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid bring the team back to title contention. Unfortunately, since the 2019-20 NBA season started, Horford has been a huge disappointment and has failed to live up to expectations from the massive contract he signed last summer. However, though most people believe that he isn’t really a good fit alongside Simmons and Embiid, there seems to be another reason why Horford was struggling in his first season wearing the Sixers’ jersey.
According to Noah Levick of NBC Sports, the veteran center recently admitted that he was not in perfect shape earlier in the 2019-20 NBA season. Though he managed to play 60 of the first 65 games of the season, Horford revealed that he’s far from his old self as injuries prevented him from doing the things he usually does on both ends of the floor. With the NBA on a hiatus for more than three months, Horford said that he feels much better and is ready to help the Sixers succeed in the playoffs.
“I probably wasn’t where I wanted to be,” Horford said.
“I’m not going to make excuses but right now I’m in a much better place. The time off for me was beneficial. And getting to work now, the biggest challenge for us with the season coming back is doing everything at game-intensity level. Going from not being able to get in the gym to start working out individually, and when we get to Orlando, we’ll start doing it together and then a quick transition to games — it’s really a process. So for me, it’s really making sure that I continue to make strides and that I’m at my best, more specifically when the playoffs are ready to go.”
As Horford is 34, it would already be too much to ask him to return to his prime. However, if he could bring back the defensive-minded, floor-spacing big man that once wreaked havoc in Boston and show that he could co-exist with Simmons and Embiid, Horford would undeniably be a huge help in achieving the Sixers’ goal of fully dominating the Eastern Conference and winning the NBA championship title this season.
Horford, when 100 percent healthy, remains a very reliable contributor on both ends of the floor. Aside from giving the Sixers another offensive weapon under the basket and in the perimeter, Horford could also be tasked to guard the opposing team’s best frontcourt players.
Horford’s performance in the 2020 NBA playoffs will be vital, as it could determine his future in Philadelphia. If he establishes an impressive performance in the postseason, the Sixers may consider keeping him for another year. However, if he continues to be a disappointment, it is highly likely that Horford has already played his first and final season wearing the Sixers’ jersey.