SALT LAKE CITY – Al Horford and Tobias Harris are literally putting the 76ers first. And the forwards are happy with it.
When need be, they both have shown an ability to take over games. Yet, their numbers drastically take a hit on the nights when Joel Embiid is in the starting lineup.
The Cameroon native will play in Wednesday night’s game against the Utah Jazz at the Vivint Smart Home Arena after serving a two-game suspension for fighting Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns on Oct. 30.
Horford averaged 26.6 points in the three games the team’s franchise player has missed due to suspension or injury (a sprained left ankle). However, his scoring dipped to 11 points per game in the three games that Embiid has played.
Harris averaged 25.3 points when the two-time All-Star sat and 15.3 when Embiid played.
Following Tuesday’s practice at the University of Utah, Horford was asked if he and Harris need to be more involved in games in which Embiid plays.
“I honestly think it’s kind of early in the season,” Horford said. "I think we’re all trying to figure one another out. But it all depends also on how coach [Brett Brown] is calling and managing the game. A lot of times when Joe is out there, we try to feed him the ball, get him the ball.
“For Tobias, he’s a team player. We are all trying to win and do things a certain way. If coach calls for all of us to get more touches, we will. If not, we will play off of Joel and have him make decisions and we’ll be ready.”
Harris, Horford, and the Sixers (5-1) as a whole have bought in. While it’s early in the season, they’ll tell you the lone focus is on winning an NBA title. They also realize Embiid is arguably one of the league’s top five players when healthy.
The 25-year-old averages 23.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals in just 25.3 minutes. He’s the one who will have a major say in the Sixers’ quest to win that title.
That’s why they’re welcoming his return against the Jazz (4-3). His rim protection was missed in Monday night’s 114-109 loss in Phoenix.
“I’m happy just having him around, his presence and just everything he gives us,” Horford said. “So I’m excited about tomorrow.”
Embiid declined to do interviews following Tuesday’s practice.
However, he arrived before the light practice to shoot the ball. He stayed afterward for more shooting and conditioning drills.