When Elton Brand and the 76ers inked Al Horford to a massive 4-year 109 million dollar contract this offseason, I’ll be the first one to admit that I had some reservations. Not only is Horford a 33 year-old with less than stellar career statistical numbers, but “center” is a position the 76ers are already set at with Joel Embiid for the foreseeable future.
However, after just one regular season game Horford has already proven his value, showing Brand and the fans exactly why he was worth the big payday.
The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Boston Celtics 107-93 on Wednesday night, a game that despite all the theatrics of a season opener, relied heavily on some old school “gritty” style basketball. There were 63 total fouls called in the contest and the two teams combined for 102 points in the paint.
With a game relying so heavily on physical play down underneath the basket, many fans expected Joel Embiid to post some monster numbers, especially seeing as Enes Kanter (Celtics starting center) is perceived by most to be a below average defender.
However, due to some foul trouble and a bloody nose, Embiid only clocked in 23 minutes on the night. Normally this would scream disaster for Brett Brown and his 76ers, but with newly signed Horford, the Sixers never panicked.
Horford was able to step in and easily handle starting center duties for the majority of the second half. The offensive rhythm never fluttered, and Horford’s rim-protecting abilities were more than enough to rattle the Celtics. Horford ended the evening with 16 points in 31 big minutes, while also shooting 83% from the free throw line.
The ability to sub in a 5 time All-Star for Embiid whenever he needs a rest, and seemingly not have to alter the offensive game plan at all, is a HUGE luxury. With talks of “load management” being used frequently when discussing Embiid’s 2020 season, Horford will no doubt continue to prove his worth time and time again.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports