CAMDEN — Al Horford sat on the dais and soaked in the view of Philadelphia’s Center City from the second floor of the 76ers’ training facility.

“This view gets me excited,” the newly-acquired Sixers big man said. “I’m hyped. I’m ready to go. We got a good group here.”

The Sixers celebrated their offseason moves with a news conference here Friday morning.

Optimism abounded, and with good reason.

On the dais were Horford, guard Josh Richardson and the re-signed Tobias Harris. Those three should combine with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to give Philadelphia one of the NBA’s elite starting fives.

Also present were recently-signed reserves Kyle O’Quinn, James Ennis III and Raul Neto.

The Sixers finished 51-31 and lost in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors last season.

“This group, if it jells, and it will jell, is capable of bringing a championship to Philly,” Sixers managing partner Josh Harris said. “Obviously, it’s the NBA. Things happen — injuries, the ball might bounce one way or another. When that happens, I’m not sure, but I’m really confident we’re going to be making this city proud and winning a lot. All of us have high expectations.”

The 6-foot-10 Horford was one of Philadelphia’s biggest offseason moves. Horford played the last three seasons with the Boston Celtics, averaging 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in 2018-19. His teams have been in the playoffs each of his 12 NBA seasons.

Horford was available after unexpectedly opting out of his Celtics contract this spring.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Horford said. “I felt like there was going to be a lot of options for me. When June 30 (the start of NBA free agency) came around, things escalated quickly. I had to make the decision that was best for me.”

Horford and the 6-10 O’Quinn give the Sixers depth at center behind Embiid. The lack of quality big men was one Philadelphia’s main weaknesses last season. The Sixers were plus-90 with Embiid on the floor during the Raptors series and minus-111 with him on the bench.

“We did fall off a cliff when Joel was off the court, especially defensively,” Sixers general manager Elton Brand said. “We know that (Horford and Embiid) can play together. The opportunity to have Al back up (Embiid) at times, especially in the playoffs, is a great opportunity for us.”

Horford’s defense often frustrated Embiid when the Celtics and Sixers played.

“There were some great battles,” Horford said. “The possibility of teaming up with him got me really excited about how good we can be.”

The one player the Sixers did not bring back was guard Jimmy Butler. Philadelphia executed a sign-and-trade deal with the Miami Heat and basically traded Butler to the Heat for Richardson.

Brand declined to discuss in-depth the team’s negotiations with Butler, but Brand did say he did not regret trading Robert Covington and Dario Saric to Minnesota for Butler last November. Butler created shots for himself and teammates in the fourth quarter of playoff games. Someone will have to fulfill that role this season.

“I look forward to training camp,” Brand said. “Defensively is where we’re going to wear our hat. But we’ll figure out the spacing (on offense). We have a lot of versatility.”

The season doesn’t start for about three months, but there was a good vibe surrounding the Sixers on Friday.

The players said all the right things and seemed to be willing to sacrifice to win.

“We want to be a team that’s going to have fun playing out there with one another,” Tobias Harris said. “We want to be connected as a group.”

Friday was a good start.

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Contact: 609-272-7209 Twitter @ACPressMcGarry

Staff Writer

I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.

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