When the Sixers took the floor for their first day of training camp, there was one face that stood out above the rest.
At 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, Al Horford, who spent the last three seasons in Boston infamously battling against Joel Embiid, was now playing alongside him.
It’s really something special to be able to play alongside a guy like Joel. It’s really a dream come true for me,” Horford said Tuesday. “I believe he is the best big man in the league right now and to be paired up with him, play off of him and learn how to work with him is something I am excited about.
“That’s a guy I’ve had a lot of battles against,” Embiid said after their first practice. “We talked a lot and are trying to figure out how to play together. ... I can learn a lot from him.”
For head coach Brett Brown, the excitement is impossible to hide.
“Just incredible,” Brown said of having Horford at training camp. “I almost didn’t want to talk about it too much but … I’m blown away that he’s here.”
Of course, there will be a learning curve of figuring out how these two will play together, especially since Horford isn’t your typical stretch four.
It’s really, for me, to get used to the offensive system, where coach wants me to be and understanding how to play off of Joel,” Horford said. “He can do so many things, so it’s really just making sure I find the open spots, whether that’s slashing to the basket, spacing — and that’s the one thing that I felt like we did a good job of (to start training camp).
For Horford, whether he plays the four or the five doesn’t matter.
“When you have a center like Joel who can do so much and is so dominant, for me, that’s like a dream come true,” Horford said. “Playing the four, I feel like it allows me to do more on the floor, but also playing the five, I’m very comfortable since I’ve been playing it all my career. So to back him up and to run the offense through me and do different things, I’m comfortable with that. Honestly, I can play both positions.”
But the impact of Horford will go a lot further than what we see on the court.
“It is a priceless gift,” Brown said at his annual luncheon of the inevitable mentorship that Horford will offer Embiid. “There is nothing like a peer talking to a peer, a teammate talking to a teammate. … He is uniquely special and I just am excited to have him in our locker room.”
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