After two seasons, 95 games played and 710 days away, former All-Star big man Al Horford is back with the Boston Celtics. And while his return is seemingly playing second fiddle to Brad Stevens ridding his team of Kemba Walker’s massive contract, Horford’s homecoming is very much a big deal.
During the 35-year-old’s first go-round with the Celtics, the team was objectively better when he was on the floor. His 2017-18 net rating of 7.3 was the second-best mark on the team. The following year, his 6.1 number was in the same neighborhood as luminaries like Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving.
He may be older now, but if his performance last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder was any indication, he could have a similar impact on the squad in 2021-22.
Horford’s return isn’t just a good thing for the Celtics, though; it’s a good situation for the player, too.
According to one NBA insider, that is a fact that Horford has been keenly aware of for some time.
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Woj: Horford Never Wanted to Leave Boston
On the latest episode of The Woj Pod, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski commented on Stevens’ Walker-Horford swap. In doing so, he indicated that Horford had been at home in Boston before and is over the moon to be making his return.
“Horford is certainly thrilled with being back in Boston,” said Wojnarowski, as transcribed by NBC Sports Boston.
In the end, though, he was given several million reasons to overlook his comfort in Beantown and fit with the Cs and make the jump to Philly in 2019.
“He never really wanted to leave, but financially it made sense for him to go do that deal with the Sixers.”
The Sixers offered Horford a deal worth $109 million over four years that summer. In addition to being a ridiculous sum of money for the player, it was a total the Celtics couldn’t come close to coughing up with nearly $78 million already being doled out to Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart, and paydays for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum looming.
Horford’s age would have factored into his next Celtics deal as well.
Now, though, his massive salary actually represents an average annual savings of $10 million over the next two seasons compared to that of Walker.
Horford’s PDA for Boston
Wojnarowski’s assessment that Horford didn’t really want to leave Boston in the first place should come as no surprise. The big man hasn’t exactly kept fans in the dark about his feelings for the team/city.
In the wake of the big trade, Horford updated his Instagram with a post that made his feelings about the return crystal clear.
“Back Home! Grateful for this opportunity,” Horford wrote in the Insta-post. “Unfinished business. Go Celtics!”
Long before the Celtics-Thunder deal came to fruition, members of Horford’s family were seemingly campaigning for a reunion, too. Namely, Horford’s sister, Anna, who ignited Twitter in March by tweeting a picture of herself in a Celtics t-shirt.