Philadelphia 76ers: 3 things to ponder during NBA’s hiatus

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

3. The initial Al Horford hype

When the Sixers decided to sign Al Horford to a four-year, $109 million contract, the move was met with optimism and genuine hype. People were excited about Horford’s leadership, versatility, and two-way presence.

Why, however, were fans excited for the Sixers to hand out a massive four-year contract to a 33-year-old center? Especially with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons already on the roster. At no point were there any grand illusions about how the offense would flow. Horford was never a clean fit.

The hype around Horford was based more on reputation than skill set. Obviously Horford has taken a step back this season — to a degree no one could have anticipated — but when the move was made, Horford’s role was as unclear as it is now.

Last summer, fans were quick to cite Horford’s performances against Philadelphia, most notably his consistency in stifling Joel Embiid’s post-ups. The Sixers weren’t only signing an All-Star, they were removing Embiid’s biggest personal bugaboo from the field of competition.

The Sixers also preached the concept of bully ball and physicality — a lean into size when the rest of the NBA went small. It seemed smart, even revolutionary to some, but in the end, the modern NBA requires some iteration of a modern offense. Stuffing Horford’s do-it-all tools in the same bag as Embiid and Simmons made it difficult to effectively space the floor and maintain tempo.

So, as you sit on the couch and wonder what to eat for the next few weeks, also think about why the Sixers and their fandom were do dead-set on Horford, despite obvious shortcomings in fit. His struggles, though elevated by a sharp decline in athleticism, probably shouldn’t have been such a surprise in hindsight.