Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford Talks to Sports Illustrated


The seemingly endless offseason continues to drag on. It will eventually end. Basketball will be played and the NBA will bring joy to the lives of many once again, but until then all we can do is look forward. Thankfully there is no shortage of things to mull over and discuss. A few days ago, Atlanta Hawks star and big man Al Horford participated in a question and answer session with Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated on a wide range of subjects.

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Those subjects included Basketball without Borders in the Dominican Republic, last season’s heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, his contract situation, and even Mike Scott. Horford is arguably Atlanta’s most important player, so I was all ears. Or, uh, eyes. Let’s take a gander at what he had to say.

On Mike Scott:

"Yeah, we worked out together last week. Mike is doing OK. He’s doing good. Obviously, tough situation for him, but we’re standing behind him. He’s my teammate, he’s been my teammate for years now and he’s got my full support always."

It’s good to see that he has Scott’s back. That doesn’t mean he condones his actions, but that shouldn’t matter to Horford. The fact that Horford worked out with Scott and continues to support him sets an example for the rest of the team, which hopefully helps Scott feel welcome while going through a difficult situation.

On Re-signing Millsap:

"I honestly thought there was a chance we’d be able to keep them both. But it just didn’t work out that way. I’m happy for DeMarre, but I’m happy for us, being able to keep Paul, he’s such an important part of what we do. Just his versatility. He makes the game easier for all of us."

Obviously he is excited that Paul Millsap will be back. They complement each other so well with Millsap’s improving three-point shooting (35.6 percent from deep) and Horford being a beast in the paint (75 percent at the rim). He is also upset about losing DeMarre Carroll, but he seems to understand that the NBA is a business and he at least implies that bringing back Millsap was more important than bringing back Carroll. That may be reading way too much into those comments, but if that is what he is implying then I agree. Maybe I don’t have an unhealthy obsession with DeMarre Carroll. Hooray personal growth!

On New Additions:

"We’re just looking for them to impact the game and impact winning, and when you have a guy like Tiago Splitter, an experienced big man, I feel like he’ll be able to help us right away. Tim [Hardaway] I feel like has a lot of potential, and I’m very excited to see him playing in the system."

I think he recognizes that Tiago Splitter makes his life easier. Splitter will be the best back-up center in the NBA, and is capable of being a starter on many teams. His rim protection off the bench is huge, but he can also help Horford cut down on his minutes. If Horford ever feels he needs to take a game off for his health, he can feel good about Splitter picking up the slack.

I don’t feel his level of enthusiasm about Tim Hardaway Jr., but if Horford feels like he can make a positive impact on the team then I may need to temper my pessimism. He said that he really wanted to see Hardaway in the “system”. System is the operative term. I may be discounting the fact that Hardaway is coming from an organization steeped in dysfunction to an organization with an extremely healthy culture. Hardaway now gets to eschew the triangle for Budenholzer’s fast paced ball-movement and three-point shooting. No more bricking jumpers from the elbow! The grass is greener theory may hold up in his case.

On Edy Tavares:

"Oh, he’s big man. [laughs] He’s definitely 7’3″, his hands are huge. Once he figures stuff out, he’s going to be a good player."

It’s always funny to see extremely large NBA players that are surprised about how large other NBA players are. Al Horford may be undersized for an NBA center at 6-foot-10, but even he seems giggly and excited about how big Tavares is. Horford also seems to be pumped up about his potential to develop into a solid NBA player. Splitter and Horford should make for fantastic mentors for the young big man.

On his contract situation:

"For me, I’m very happy in Atlanta. It’s one of those things where I don’t want any contract talks to be a distraction for my team and me. I feel like my focus this year is for us to build and be better."

This is the perfect statement from a public relations standpoint. He makes it clear that he is happy to be in Atlanta, with the Hawks, but he also gives himself a little wiggle room in case he does end up leaving after the season. He does this while painting a picture that he is avoiding discussing an extension until after the season so it doesn’t distract the team from their goals. Horford is a very smart guy. I’ve worked in public relations during a point in my career and I am impressed by how beautifully he crafted this answer. Well done, sir.

As Brad Rowland from noted this week, Horford will not and should not sign an extension until after the season. Horford is in line for a max deal and waiting for the next cap jump is a smart play. He has earned the right to make as much money as possible and that is what he will do. I expect Atlanta to offer him everything he wants, so I’m not particularly worried about him not returning, but he has earned the right to shop around.

 The interview goes much more in depth and is definitely a good read. The part on Basketball without Borders is particularly interesting and it appears to be very dear to Horford’s heart. Horford sounds ready to get back on the court and attempt to right last year’s wrongs.

Next: Top 5 Moments From Last Season

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