Celtics’ Al Horford Sounds off on Stint in OKC: ‘I Wanted to Go Back’

Juancho Hernangomez starts over Al Horford

Getty Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the first quarter of the preseason game against the Orlando Magic.

It has been a long journey for Al Horford. His first tenure with the Boston Celtics did not end well. His lone season with the Philadelphia 76ers was a disaster. When he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was clear from the get-go that he was not in their immediate or future plans. Now he’s found himself back in Boston, where he’s played a hand in their success this season. Even if he’s in a much better place, getting there was far from easy.

In an interview with John Karalis for Locked on Celtics, Horford reflected on what it was like for him leading up to his return to Boston.

In Oklahoma City, Al knew coming in that the Thunder, being as young as they were, were not in a position to win right away. While he never caused a ruckus and his mindset then was to prove he could still play at a high level, he wanted to play for a winner. He even added that at that time, he specifically wanted to go back to Boston.

“Even though (Oklahoma City was) not where I wanted to be… I understood that I had the opportunity to really get healthy, work on my game, and put myself in a position to get a chance to be on a contending team,” Horford said. “My thought even then, and my wife knows this because she’s the only one that can say it, but I told her ‘I want to go back to Boston. That’s where I want to be.'”

Eventually, Horford got his wish, which worked out both for him and Boston in the end.

Horford Sounds Off on Jayson Tatum’s Progression

One of the reasons why Boston re-acquiring Horford wasn’t seen as too bad of an idea was because of his familiarity with the team and their best players. With that familiarity, Horford has also seen growth from those players, namely Jayson Tatum.

Horford noted in his interview with Karalis that he’s been beyond impressed with the steps Tatum has taken to become the superstar he has now, and those steps include areas like defense where he’s not getting much credit.

“It’s pretty amazing how, just from Jayson’s rookie year to now where he is, it’s unbelievable,” Horford said. “The leaps that he has taken on the defensive end just this year… he’s put himself in the conversation as an elite player because of that because he’s defending and the load that he’s carrying offensively and how he’s reading the game and as a leader, I’m just starting to see him be very vocal with our group. He’s more composed. I’ve just been very surprised with his evolution as a player.”

There were rumblings during Tatum’s rookie year that he had what it took to be special. However, there is a stark difference between having the potential to be special and actually being special. Horford, who’s been a firsthand witness of seeing who Tatum was before and who he is now, praising Tatum for his all-around improvement highlights the steps Tatum has taken to reach his potential.

Horford Spotted With Cast Around His Thumb

The Celtics have had their injury scares dating back to March between Robert Williams III’s meniscus tear and Jaylen Brown’s newly discovered hamstring tightness. As of now, it appears both of them should be good to go for the team’s upcoming series against the Milwaukee Bucks. However, this latest practice photo of Al Horford is sure to induce anxiety for Celtics fans.

The upside here is that the bandage is wrapped around Horford’s non-shooting hand, so this probably will not affect his game much, if at all. Plus, it appears Head Coach Ime Udoka isn’t too concerned about it, saying, “Nothing but the regular nicks and bruises from the playoffs.”

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