How Al Horford Became The Boston Celtics' 'Rock'

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How Al Horford Became The Boston Celtics' 'Rock' Empty How Al Horford Became The Boston Celtics' 'Rock'

Post by bobheckler on Thu Aug 23, 2018 2:39 am

Aug 22, 2018,5:31 pm

How Al Horford Became The Boston Celtics' 'Rock'

Hunter Felt, Contributor

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BOSTON, MA – MAY 27: The Boston Celtics’ Al Horford, taking stock of things in Game Seven of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

When the Boston Celtics drafted Robert Williams, the Texas A&M big man with a reputation as something of an underachiever, it had to be reassuring that he immediately began singing the praises of Al Horford. “Horford has had a great career,” Williams said at his introductory press conference, “he eats right, works out right, does everything you need to do on a day-to-day situation. So I feel like following his every footstep will just give me the keys to success to being in this league.”

Horford responded by simply saying “we’re going to work hard.” Horford has never been much of a talker.

As it turns out, there was a reason that Williams felt a connection to Horford, his high school coach Ron Meikle was a scout for the Atlanta Hawks, one of the scouts who pushed hard for the team to draft Horford. It’s a rather implausible set of circumstances, especially when you take in account that not every NBA star would be eager for the opportunity to act as a mentor to the player drafted as their eventual replacement.

If there’s one thing that’s unique about Horford, it’s his lack of ego. Horford is, in the words of teammate Marcus Morris, “the Ultimate Vet”. He was a player who, when selected for the All-Defensive Second Team, immediately responded by saying “you could put any one of us in” and emphasizing the Celtics’ league-leading team defense. There’s a reason why he came in second to the Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker in the 2017-17 NBA Sportsmanship Award and that opposing coaches like Frank Vogel, formerly of the Orlando Magic, who called him “the most underrated guy in the league,” go out of their way to praise him.

It’s partly because of his lack of ego and his willingness to sacrifice his own stats that fans tend to underestimate Horford as a player and look over what he brings to Boston. It also partly comes from the 4-year, $114 million dollar contract he signed with the Celtics in 2016, something which was greeted with skepticism. When a player is signed to a superstar contract and doesn’t put up eye-popping numbers, he invites criticism. So, Horford, with his career average 14.2 points and 3.2 assists per game has been dismissed as “Average Al” by Boston sports radio. According to Las Vegas’ odds-makers, Boston has three candidates for next year’s NBA MVP. Horford isn’t one of them.

It’s never wise to bet against Vegas and chances are, if healthy, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum will all put up bigger stats than Horford. Heck, considering the maturation of Jaylen Brown, it’s not impossible that Horford, the team’s second-highest paid player after Hayward, ends up putting the least impressive line of the team’s projected starting five. Here’s the thing: if this ended up happening, Horford would probably be the happiest of anybody. He is the epitome of the “team first” player and if those around him are putting up big numbers that means that he’s doing his job.

Horford would never admit it, but the Boston Celtics are as much his team as anybody else’s on the roster. It was the Horford signing that marked Boston’s transformation from Isaiah Thomas’s scrappy overachievers into a legitimate contender. There’s no doubt that his presence on the roster helped convince Hayward to sign with Boston last season. Horford helped keep the team afloat when they lost Hayward for the season in their very first game and Irving, in the midst of an MVP caliber season, later on in March. It was under Horford’s guidance that this otherwise young Celtics team played through playoff inexperience and eventually ended up a win away from the NBA Finals.

Throughout the Celtics’ recent success, there’s been plenty of (deserved) praise heaped on head coach Brad Stevens, for his ability to get the most of out of his players, but part of that success has come from having an 11-year veteran like Horford on the roster. After the Celtics’ Game 1 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, Stevens took the time to give Horford his due: “he’s a rock for us. We have a lot of young guys and a lot of them are experiencing this stuff for the first time and all they have to do is look at the guy next to them to gain a sense of calm or a sense of what’s coming.”

It’s hard to think of a more apt phrase than “rock” to describe Horford, who has been a stabilizing presence on a Celtics team that has been in a constant state of flux since his arrival. That’s what makes the pairing of Horford and Williams one of the upcoming season’s most intriguing storylines, as it features one of the most reliable players in the league mentoring a prospect whose stock fell during the draft thanks to a reputation for being anything but. It’s worth noting that after expressing his desire to follow in Horford’s footsteps, Williams went on to sleep through his introductory conference call, lose his wallet on two separate occasions and then subsequently miss his first day of practice after not being able to catch his flight. Horford, in other words, might have his work cut out for him when it comes to helping the talented big man reach his full potential in the NBA, but he’s clearly the perfect man for the job.

MY NOTE:  A lot of people questioned the max deal Horford was given a few years back.  They looked at his stats and concluded he wasn't worth the money.  They couldn't understand how he could be a 4x All-Star.  What they overlooked, or discounted, were his intangibles and versatility.  Even though he is the "old man" on this team he is a prototypical "new NBA" big.


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Post by wideclyde on Thu Aug 23, 2018 7:47 am


I was one of those guys who thought that Horford's contract was way over the top when he first signed, and also one of those guys who thought that he was not doing what a max contract guy should be doing during most of his first year in Boston as well.

Now, he is being seen for more of the leader that he also was in Atlanta.  His play is still above average, but will never be all league even though his intangibles have become much more visible as the talent on the team has improved.  Just shows how important getting to know a player really is.

Glad we have him and cannot wait to get started on this season.

Last edited by wideclyde on Thu Aug 23, 2018 5:44 pm; edited 1 time in total


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Post by Shamrock1000 on Thu Aug 23, 2018 10:38 am

I love Al, am delighted we have him, and think he is worth every penny for his "tangibles" - there are many non-scoring/rebounding, clearly defined metrics, both individual and part-of-team-based, that show his worth.


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Post by RosalieTCeltics on Fri Aug 24, 2018 3:54 pm

I have had many disagreements with people about the value of Al Horford. From the minute he came here, he has been the heart and soul of this team I love his game, his attitude, the way he helps others better themselves on the court and off. In other words, a true Celtic. Those who feel he is overpaid just do not understand the game of basketball. I am willing to bet they are "stat" people.

Al's importance goes far beyond what you see in the stats. If they took a poll of the players who play with Al, you will find each and everyone of them singing the praises of Al Horford.

Al has been a joy to watch every night.

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