Sixers’ Al Horford says break from season was ‘beneficial’ for him physically

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The 76ers are less than four weeks from hopefully resuming the coronavirus-suspended NBA season at Walt Disney World in Orlando. For some players, the unprecedented months-long break has given them a chance to start fresh and play to the potential they didn’t consistently meet from October through mid-March. 

One player who can improve his play drastically is Sixers forward/center Al Horford, who is in the first year of a lucrative four-year contract. The just-turned 34-year-old’s numbers this season have been an underwhelming 12 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The five-time All-Star looked like anything but when paired with Joel Embiid on the frontcourt. 

Last week, Horford gave some insight as to why his season as a 33-year-old wasn’t his best. 

When asked how much some knee and hamstring issues impacted his play, and what his current physical health is like, Horford said, “I probably wasn’t where I wanted to be. I’m not going to make excuses. Right now, I’m in a much better place. The time off for me was beneficial.”

Al Horford believes he's healthier now than he was when the season was happening. #Sixers

— Dave Uram (@MrUram) July 3, 2020

He continued: “In getting to work now, the biggest challenge for us with the season coming back is doing everything at game-intensity level. Going from not being able to get in the gym to start working out individually, and then when we’ll get to Orlando, we’ll start doing it together, and then a quick transition to games. It’s really a process, so for me, it’s really to make sure that I continue to make strides and that I’m at my best, but more specifically when the playoffs are ready to go.”

In fairness, Horford played well in the last three Sixers games before COVID-19 paused the season. He scored 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting March 5 at Sacramento, 22 points on 9-of-16 from the floor March 7 at Golden State, and 20 points on 8-of-11 March 11 versus the Pistons. Horford also collected 10 rebounds in each of those last two games. 

The Sixers are scheduled to leave for Orlando on Thursday. Then, it’s a three-week training camp in preparation for their first official game on Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers. 

On July 24, they’re scheduled to scrimmage the Memphis Grizzlies, followed by a July 26 scrimmage versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, and a July 28 scrimmage against the Dallas Mavericks. 

Head coach Brett Brown is putting a lot of stock into camp and the time leading up to Aug. 1 to lock down how he wants to approach the resumption. In the meantime, he said last week: “There is kind of like a ‘Team Al’ and a ‘Team Joel’ and you figure out what that world is, and then there’s the integration of the two of them.”

Horford and Brown believe the 76ers are built for the playoffs. If they’re able to shock some teams as a sleeper and play to their potential, it could very well be that Horford elevates his game to what the Sixers were hoping for when they signed him last summer.