Boston Celtics center Al Horford will never forget a compelling conversation he had with Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge. It was the talk that ultimately persuaded him to ship up to Boston.
Uprooted from the Atlanta Hawks by championship aspirations, Horford bought into the Celtics culture. He reflected on the profound influence Stevens and Ainge had on him, at the time.
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And now, five years removed from that meeting in 2016, he’s back in Boston — which initiates nostalgia.
Al Horford Embraces Championship Aspirations: ‘It’s a Huge Challenge’
For Al, this is unfinished business and in this city, the dream of winning a title comes back into focus.
“Five years ago when I had to make a tough decision and leave Atlanta, Danny (Ainge) and Brad (Stevens), they sold me on the culture, what we’re trying to build in Boston, and winning; getting that banner 18,” Horford said during Thursday’s press conference. “That’s something that really excited me, really motivated me, and it something we were working towards.
“Obviously, I wasn’t able to get it done when I was with the group, and now that this time has passed and I get that opportunity, again, to do that.”
It’s an opportunity Horford didn’t think would ever present itself but one that he’s very grateful for. Now, he’s looking forward to the challenge in front of him — which is a chance to help flip the script on last season’s .500 Celtics team and lead them to the promised land.
“For me, it’s what can I do? What can I do to accomplish that? And, I’m lucky enough to get a second shot, to be with this group,” Horford added. “I feel like it was a great three years for me but now we get a fresh opportunity. It’s a huge challenge. I understand that I know it. But, I actually embrace that and I look forward to getting to work with the group of guys that we have.”
Al Horford’s ‘Excited’ About Ime Udoka
Horford is also looking forward to reconnecting with Ime Udoka, the Celtics’ new head coach, who spent time with ‘Big Al’ during their lone season with the Philadelphia 76ers. Horford is excited about the team’s latest hire and although their stint in Philadelphia didn’t last long, Al says he and Udoka still spent plenty of time with one another.
“Ime’s a great guy, him and I had a really good relationship,” Horford said. “He was always very professional. His views on the game, you know. Defensively, him and I spent a lot of time talking about defense and coverages, and things that I feel like work, that he feels like work; and things like that. So, I’m excited about him. I’m excited about what he brings and how he can help our group.
“I’m just looking forward to, obviously, supporting him and getting this thing going.”