Despite Being 'Benched' Sixers' Al Horford Doesn't Believe His Role Will Change
The last time Sixers' veteran big man Al Horford came off the bench during the regular season of his career was 2007. This past Tuesday night, the streak was broken. On the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics, Horford was a guaranteed starter no matter what, as he was the best big man available for both of those teams.
On the Philadelphia 76ers, though, Horford was expected to coexist with a fellow All-Star in Joel Embiid. While Horford has played against Embiid well in the past, there's really no debate as to who the better big man is at this point in their careers.
Therefore, Horford wasn't putting up a fight for Embiid's spot at the center position. Instead, Sixers' head coach Brett Brown was being forced to try and make them fit together on the court at the same time.
Brown did as best as he could until he realized that change was necessary. He teased the idea of bringing Horford off the bench for the last few days. On Tuesday, he finally gave in and followed through. While Horford wasn't precisely thrilled with the change, the "all-class" veteran wasn't going to make it a big deal.
"I just accepted it," Horford said when asked about his initial reaction to hearing he was coming off the bench. "It's obviously not the position I saw myself in, but it was what is best for the team." Brown made it clear the change is not something that can be considered Horford's fault as his struggles were a result of bad fit alongside guys like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, who have made it difficult to create spacing on the floor.
When Tuesday's Horford-less starting lineup was announced, many applauded the Sixers for finally 'benching' the struggling piece in the lineup. However, just because he was benched to start the game, doesn't really mean Horford sees his playing time go away. He still checked into Tuesday's game nearly six minutes into the matchup.
By the end, Horford had totaled for almost 28 minutes, which is just two minutes under his season average of 30 minutes-per-game. "I honestly don't think [my role] changes much from before," Horford stated following Tuesday's win. Although he didn't notice too many personal benefits from the move, Horford seems open to finding out where this can go moving forward.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_