Atlanta Hawks: It’s Time to Bury the Hatchet With Al Horford

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Looking back on Al Horford’s decision to leave the Atlanta Hawks in free agency.

The Atlanta Hawks selected Al Horford with the third overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, asking a lot of the Florida Gator from the start. The 6’9 big man played in 81 games, starting 77, and was moved from his natural power forward position to the center spot.

That gave the Hawks an extremely young frontcourt of Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Horford to play alongside established star Joe Johnson. Horford contributed like a future All-Star in his first season, helping the team reach the playoffs for the first time since the 1998-1999 season.

He would go on to have a long and fruitful career in Atlanta, playing nine seasons with the team. During that time he was named to four All-Star games, the 2011 All-NBA Team, and made a playoff appearance each season.

A part of that success came from the seamless supporting cast swap from the Josh Smith, Joe Johnson days to the Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver run, but it also was due to Horford’s individual play.

Horford was unquestionably a top-ten center when healthy, and was top-five during his peak. He was the quiet superstar that fans loved, and he didn’t get enough credit from the mainstream NBA world.

He continued to star for the Hawks until the 2016 off-season when he reached unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career. With the Hawks coming off back-to-back postseason sweeps at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta seemed determined to run it back.

They wanted to re-sign the big man but also had their eye on fellow center Dwight Howard, who they would eventually sign to replace Horford. The Hawks did not offer the full five-year maximum deal, instead offering him a deal that some deemed to be a “low-ball.”

Horford signed with Boston on a four-year deal, and the Hawks began their rebuild just one season later. It’s, of course, easy to relent the front office decided not to re-sign one of the best players in franchise history, but we’re too far gone for that.

Horford’s first game back with the team netted him a mix of boos and applause, with the boos over-whelming the claps for the most part.

To this day Horford has an iffy reaction when introduced in State Farm Arena, and some fans have yet to come around on Al. The now-Sixer refuted a claim made by father Tito Horford that poor attendance swayed Al’s decision to leave.

It seems like the decision for his departure was based solely on the dollar and cents, and for that, you can only blame the Hawks’ front office, which has been almost fully redone since then.

Simply put, Al Horford is one of the most important players in Atlanta Hawks franchise history, and he should be remembered as such. Breakups are hard, especially when one side continues to win and the other enters a colossal rebuild, but eventually, you just have to move on and remember and appreciate the good times.

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