The Boston Celtics have been linked to Al Horford dating back to last season after the Oklahoma City Thunder decided to hold him out of the season to focus more on their rebuild with the young players in the organization. In certain aspects, you can tell that then-head coach Brad Stevens did not want to part ways with Horford and that became more of a front office decision led by Danny Ainge.
With Stevens now being in his role as the president of basketball operations for Boston, the first move he made was one that brought back Horford after a brief two-year hiatus from the Boston Celtics. By bringing him back, it shows that Stevens saw more value in Horford on the team than off it, which is not how Ainge viewed the situation.
Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations, Brad Stevens, values Al Horford on the team and was part of the first decision he made in his new role with the team.
During Horford’s time apart from Boston, the five-time All-Star crossed paths with his new head coach, Ime Udoka, when they were both with the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2019-20 season. Udoka spent one season as an assistant coach to Doc Rivers before joining Steve Nash’s staff with the Brooklyn Nets holding the same role.
It’s fair to say that the familiarity between Horford and Udoka is another great asset for the Boston Celtics, as Udoka also has experience working with the core of the Celtics during their time on the FIBA World Cup team in 2019. Udoka has expressed that the offense can run through Horford with him being an important facilitator when he’s in the game.
For Horford, he’s just excited to be back in Boston and is looking forward to the opportunity that he’ll have once again with the Celtics.
“Just really, really happy to be back. Really appreciate how special of a place that Boston is. For me, being away from it, seeing the type of city that it is, what the team is all about, it’s something that I really missed. Obviously, I feel like I learned a lot, and sometimes, in my case, change was for the better. I’m just very grateful to have a second opportunity to be back here and to continue to work on what I started here.” – Al Horford, per Tom Westerholm of MassLive
With Oklahoma City electing to not use Horford last season, he essentially had a year off to recover and get himself back into playing shape for his 15th season. It’s not often that a player is able to have a rest year in the middle of their career. Here’s what Horford said about how he used his time off and the positive results that should come from that.
”I had a lot of time over the summer to really work. Usually you’re so tired, you’re depleted, you’ve gotta do some things to kind of get back to where you need to. And this summer I was healthy, I was able to get after it in the weight room, conditioning, start building it on the court like I wanted to. So going into this year, I feel really good. I feel as good as I’ve felt probably in my NBA career, to be honest.” – Al Horford, per Taylor Snow of NBA.com
Furthermore, Horford’s physique has caught the attention of his teammates and coach Udoka, who did spend one season with Horford after he left the Celtics in 2019.
“He’s looked great since the day he came into training camp. He talked about how he took care of his body and how much of an opportunity this is. And he’s happy to be back. So you can see with his body and how he’s playing, he looks lively, fresh, and looks rejuvenated. We’re loving what we’re seeing from him.” – Ime Udoka, per Taylor Snow of NBA.com
In Horford’s best years, he’s a versatile four-and-stretch big-man. He understands the necessity of defense and can handle the ball for the offense with certain lineups, as coach Udoka expressed.
“We feel versatility is an asset for us, with the lineups we can start, but a guy like Al is making a huge case obviously, the way he’s come in and looked and played, the leadership and things he’s brought. I mentioned some of the versatility with what he can do as far as pass the ball, handle it and shoot it, so he’s an asset there.” – Ime Udoka, per Taylor Snow of NBA.com
There’s so much more that Horford brings to the Celtics in his return that will go unnoticed. Starting with his leadership and already developed team chemistry and camaraderie with a majority of the guys on the team. It’s going to be a great homecoming for Horford when the Celtics play their first home game on October 22 against the Raptors.