The 35-year-old came out and averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds in 29.1 minutes in the regular season. He then raised it to 12.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in 35.4 minutes in the playoffs.
Even excluding the significant impact the man had on his team’s defense and overall attack flow, there were a number of NBA members who were surprised by Al Horford’s production of the Celtics.
Sam Prieste It was not one of those people.
The Oklahoma City general manager had essentially put Horford on the shelf for the final two months of the 2020-21 season as the Thunder kicked off its rebuilding project into a new phase. There was a need to look at the players who had the chance to be there when the club was once again hoping to play for something meaningful.
That Presti Horford’s move to Celtic status befitting a player who needs a shot at a championship in the latter stages of his career was a hopeful reward. (And with Rob Williams ordering another knee surgery before this season, the Celts need more Al.)
“Well, I couldn’t be happier for him — both professionally and personally,” Presti told Heavy Sports. “He’s one of the real pros I’ve come across in the time I’ve done this.”
A professional enough to start and play a major role in the Celts’ run to the Finals. Pro enough to escalate his execution of 46.7% shooting (33.6% on 3-pointers) to 52.3% and 48.0%, in the regular season and play-off games, respectively. Professional enough to keep the quarterback and help Williams realize more of his potential.
“I’m not surprised he was able to contribute in the way he did,” Prieste said of Horford. “I think it was a great thing and a credit to Brad (Stevens, the head of Celtic basketball) and his staff that they realized how he could help them in the ways he did. I am so happy for him, and I think he will continue to be a huge part of this team going forward.
“I haven’t watched all the games, but when I did, the things he was doing were similar to the things he was doing for our team. Just, obviously, Boston is at a much different stage in their development and schedule and they’re way beyond the stage we’re in. And I think his presence In an environment like this in this part of his career is a good fit.
“Yes, I was happy for him – but not completely shocked that he was able to do it. And I can’t stress enough that Brad was really clear about how that worked for them. It made a lot of sense.”
Horford will be crucial this season for the Celtics
The fit may have been better than the Celtics had hoped. Horford allowed Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to move on every position and gain a size advantage while also allowing Williams to thrive. Now the club should hope that Al can help them weather the rehab period for Timillord with whoever fills Williams’ role in the rotation.
In any case, the Celts will be watching Horford’s playing time closely as they try to get him ready to go in the post-season.
It’s a very different situation than the one in which Al was greeted in Oklahoma City. Horford started at Thunder after acquiring it from Philadelphia prior to the late 2020 season, but likely the biggest win in that deal is the first-round pick that OKC gets from the Sixers. Presti got another one from the Celtics to accept Kemba Walker for Horford and Moses Brown, which C later shipped to Josh Richardson.
Al was not destined for a long-term stay in Oklahoma.
“We were coming off a seven-game playoff loss and we recently transferred Chris Paul to Phoenix,” Presti said. “We are in the early stages of repositioning and rejuvenating our team.
“I think (Horford) was great for all the guys we had. A lot of them were cutting their teeth in the NBA. But we also had a first-year coach, and Al was exceptional with Mark (Dinault). I’m sure Ime (Udoka, The Celtics head coach for the first year) has also benefited from the fact that he’s such a stable presence on and off the field. But he’s a player, and I’m really proud to walk our halls and wear our uniforms, albeit for a very short period of time. We got close a few times when we kind of In our prime years with some of our best teams to bring him into the trade. But it’s better late than never.”
Thunder sought to exchange Horford for a rival
And unlike the time when Thunder walked in the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook era, Horford is no longer relevant.
“I think he helped us in the short time he was with us. At the same time, we also realized that at the stage he was in, he wanted to play for a rival team,” Presti said.
“He came to our organization, put his feet up, was a true professional, and contributed both on and off the field. I was confident that we would be able to discover something for him the following year. I am very grateful for the confidence he and Jason (Glosson) showed in us in following the plan we laid out. , and I worked for him. But he’s a brilliant professional and a great player, and I’m happy for him.”
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