Why Didn't Brett Brown Stick to His Plans for Al Horford vs. Hawks?
PHILADELPHIA, PA -- A couple of weeks ago, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown shook up the starting lineup. After weeks of contemplating whether he should continue to see if Al Horford and Joel Embiid can coexist or not, the Sixers' coach decided it would be best if the former Celtics' big man came off the bench.
While Horford wasn't thrilled with the decision, the classy veteran wasn't going to make a big deal out of it. After all, he's in Philly to win. So if the Sixers feel it's best for the team if Horford comes off the bench, the big man made it clear he would be open to it.
When Brown finally made that decision ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers matchup a couple of weeks back, it was unclear if that was going to be a trend moving forward or not. So when the Sixers returned from the NBA All-Star break, Brown was asked about his plans regarding Al Horford. To no surprise, he confirmed that Horford would remain in that role coming off the bench.
"I'm inclined more than not to move forward with [Horford coming off the bench]," Brown mentioned last Thursday ahead of the matchup against Brooklyn. "I don't like to [make a lineup based off of matchups], I prefer to have a starting lineup. I'm hoping to have a solid, consistent type of rotation."
For the matchups against Brooklyn and Milwaukee, Brown stuck to his guns and had Horford come off the bench. When Monday's game against Atlanta rolled around, though, the situation changed. Roughly about 30 minutes before tip-off, the Sixers announced the starting lineup, which contained Al Horford at power forward once again.
With 30 minutes of playing time, Horford shot three-for-eight from the field, totaling for seven points. Horford didn't hold Embiid back one bit, as the Sixers' center went on to have a career-night. Of course, though, Brown's decision to contradict himself in less than a week made everybody wonder why exactly did he go back to utilizing Horford in the starting lineup once again. After the win over Atlanta, he addressed the situation.
"When you don't have Ben Simmons, you start thinking about what you're going to do," Brown explained. "I look at it as an opportunity to grow a group that will be playing when Ben is sitting. When you look at a group that could play when Ben's not in the game, [I think], can I grow that environment? Can I have an opportunity to see who might be able to be the backup point guard? In that sort of design, Al came in. I thought some of his passes tonight were elite. He really made some sophisticated plays. I started him for those reasons."
With Simmons expected to miss additional time moving forward, there's a chance Horford could remain as a starter for the time being. As the Sixers search for their identity without Simmons, only Embiid's spot at center is a reserved position. All other players will be shuffled around accordingly until Brett Brown finds a set of rotations he likes. So if that means he favors a lineup that involves Horford starting the game, then there's an excellent chance he rolls with it until the team gets fully healthy again.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_