Let’s go from Joel Embiid’s shushing to Al Horford’s shushing.
Horford put the finger to his lips on Friday night after hitting a shot in the Memphis win. He finished 4-10 from the floor and 2-5 from three, scoring ten points and adding eight rebounds and six assists.
The 33-year-old veteran followed that up with a stat line that looked like this on Sunday night:
30 minutes, zero points on 0-6 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks.
It was the first time in more than 800 career games that he’s failed to score a point. That’s an unbelievable stat when you consider how steady and consistent Horford has been over the course of a long career.
Here’s what his shot plot looked like last night:
Two three-pointers, a couple of longer mid-range looks, a missed pull-up near the baseline, and then his final shot was actually the one closest to the basket, a late-clock backdown that missed the rim entirely.
We all know it’s been a rough fit when the trio of Horford, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid are all out there at the same time. That group has a -1.1 net rating in 423 minutes on the floor together this season. For comparison, look at the following two-man Sixer lineups:
- Horford/Simmons: +4.1 net rating
- Horford/Harris: +5.0 net rating
- Horford/Embiid: -1.3 net rating
It’s not a great fit and never really was.
As such, the topic of benching Horford and bringing him off the pine came up twice this weekend. Brett Brown was asked about it pregame Friday, and responded by saying that all options are on the table:
“If (that’s) going to make us a better team, we will do that,” said the head ball coach.“
General Manager Elton Brand said this:
“Brett’s been empowered to make any decision he feels to win. Whatever that is, he has the power to do it. Whatever he sees fit, whatever player, a bench role, he’s empowered. It hasn’t been (predicated on) this latest losing streak and our road woes. We’ve talked about this weeks ago. Whatever he feels needs to be done, let’s win.”
I do think this would make the Sixers better right now, benching Horford. If you added a shooter to the starting lineup and bumped Tobias Harris down to power forward, you’d be giving up a bit of defense, but you’d open up some more space for Embiid to operate. Then you can stagger your lineups a bit better to pair Horford and Simmons and let Al do more of his screening and popping and rolling from the center position, which he played relatively well in Embiid’s absence. even if he wasn’t necessarily shooting the lights out. The offensive flow just looked smoother.
Of course, it’s not so easy to just bench guys and expect them to respond. Horford is a respected veteran, a five-time All Star who just signed a big contract here. That’s different from removing Robert Covington from the starting lineup during the 2018 Boston series or T.J. McConnell from the 2019 Raptors series.
Here’s every shot Horford took last night: