Brett Brown tried to elude a question about Al Horford’s role, but his response was telling.
During Wednesday’s media call, the 76ers coach was asked if he projects Horford going back into the starting lineup or coming off the bench, or if he needs a few weeks to think about it.
Brown initially said he was going to feel things out at the start of training camp before admitting he has some thoughts for the NBA restart at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
“I think it’s true that we have learned a lot about some of the things that ... don’t work,” Brown said. ”And you really in your head and heart feel like, ‘I don’t care how much time we have. That’s probably going to be tough to pull off versus you know we need to do better.‘ ”
The Sixers’ pairing of Horford with three-time All-Star center Joel Embiid has been a failure. The team basically admitted that when Horford was demoted to the bench before the Feb. 11 home game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The post player returned to the starting lineup three games later only because point guard Ben Simmons was sidelined with a pinched nerve in his lower back. Simmons, who missed the final eight games before the season was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, will return in Orlando. Brown said his back is “effectively 100 percent.”
Brown declined to fully disclose his intentions for Horford, but he did give a hint.
“Maybe this will help answer it a little bit better,” he said. “There is kind of 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.”
Embiid’s conditioning and work ethic have always come into question, especially during extended breaks.
But the Sixers have said things have been different while the season was suspended. Embiid has been working out six days a week.
“Let’s start with the respect and applause I give him for putting in time,” Brown said. “There is nobody on our team that has put in more time than Joel Embiid.
“Forget what he has actually done in the gym for a minute. Just go to the man-hours and consecutive days and the amount of days he has put in over the past few months.”
The Sixers are conducting voluntary workouts at their practice facility in Camden until they travel to Orlando on July 9.
After arriving in Orlando’s bubble-like atmosphere, the Sixers will conduct a training camp until July 29.
They will face the Indiana Pacers on Aug. 1, in the first of their eight seeding games in Orlando.
“We’ve got a three-week runway to deliver him to the regular season,” Brown said of Embiid. “I’m looking for Joel to come in in as good a shape as he’s been since I have coached him. ... I’m excited for Jo to get back into this and show what he has been doing the last few months.”
One would think an unheralded newcomer like Ryan Broekhoff would have a tough time making an impact with the Sixers. The team, however, is always looking for perimeter shooting, and that’s what the former Dallas Maverick does best.
As a result, it’s not out of the question that he could excel in that role if given an opportunity.
“Looking back at [former Sixers sharpshooters] JJ [Redick] and also [Marco] Belinelli from a few years ago, just their style of play and obviously every team is looking for shooting, and three-point shooting is I guess the way the game has transitioned, putting a high premium on that,” he said.
“I saw it as an opportunity for a skill set of mine to be able to come in and hopefully find some opportunities to kind of replicate what those guys have done.”
The 29-year-old averaged 4.0 points and 10.7 minutes while shooting 40.3% from three-point range in 59 career games with Dallas.
Brown, who’is in his second stint as the Australian national team coach, has a relationship with Broekhoff, an Australia native.
Brown was shocked that Broekhoff agreed to sign a substitution contract with the Sixers this past weekend. That’s because the coach was up front, telling Broekhoff several players would be ahead of him. Brown believed Broekhoff would opt to play in Europe or sign with another NBA team after their phone conversation.
“What I do know is he’s got an NBA skill and he can shoot,” the coach said. “I think there’s an Australian toughness that he brings to the table. ... It’s one of those things like, ‘Who knows?‘ ”