CAMDEN, N.J. — Al Horford made a comment after the Sixers’ practice Wednesday that caught the attention of media outlets around the country.
Here is what Horford said in response to a reporter wondering whether anybody needed to be “called out”:
There’s some stuff going on in our locker room and we’ll keep that internal. We all know we need to be better. We need to step it up, and it’s a great opportunity to do it tomorrow.
The comment wasn’t the kind that took one aback in the moment. It was an honest remark by Horford, but in line with the overall tone of his post-practice media availability. He twice used the phrase “our backs are against the wall” and acknowledged several issues with the team.
“We weren’t focused enough, especially on the road,” Horford said. “We were focused in the first half [against the Heat], then in the second they made a little run and for some reason we weren’t able to recover. As a group we need to be more focused. We did a little better on the road, but we’ve fallen back to a bad pattern. Tomorrow we’re going into a place that’s tough and our backs are against the wall, so we need to really be great tomorrow.”
The Sixers play the NBA-leading Bucks tomorrow night in Milwaukee.
Horford has been an improvement for the Sixers at backup center over the team's options last season, but his offensive fit alongside Joel Embiid and his outside shooting have been problematic in the first year of his four-year contract with the Sixers.
Lineups with Horford and Embiid on the floor have a 100.9 offensive rating, which is the worst of any two-man Sixers pairing with at least 300 minutes together. Horford is shooting a career-high 4.3 three-point shots per game and making only 32.2 percent, which would be his lowest mark since the 2014-15 season.
He was part of a Celtics team last season that didn’t meet high expectations. Jaylen Brown said in March that Boston’s locker room was “toxic.”
With that recent history, it’s clear why some would be inclined to jump on Horford vaguely referring to “stuff” in the Sixers’ locker room and think it might mean deep problems exist. And, with the Sixers coming off consecutive blowout road losses, it’s not absurd to think that there are serious concerns with the team.
Horford was also asked Wednesday if he thought the blame Brett Brown was receiving for the team’s struggles was fair.
“I think we all look at ourselves in the mirror and we see how we can be better,” he said. “But ultimately as players, we need to be better.”
He didn’t come close to discussing a “toxic” situation or individually calling out teammates who need to improve, but Horford’s stance Wednesday was clear. In his mind, the Sixers must turn this around now.
However, he doesn’t think the team is beyond repair.
“I believe so,” he said of whether he’s confident in the Sixers' core ahead of Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline. “But ultimately [general manager Elton Brand] has some important decisions to make. I believe with this group we can get it together, of course.”
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