Al Horford credits unlikely source for his success
On a Boston Celtics team full of wide-eyed 20-somethings, 36-year-old Al Horford has arguably been the single biggest star. But Horford’s continued excellence in the NBA may be owed to an unexpected person.
In an interview this week with Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, the veteran big Horford credited an unlikely source for his longevity in the league — ex-Atlanta Hawks general manager Rick Sund. Horford said that Sund was the one who pushed him to add a three-point shot to prolong his career.
“Rick is the one that told me, ‘Man, you have a really good mid-range. You should start shooting corner threes, that’s going to help extend your career,’” said Horford. “I used to be a banger down low and posting up. He was like, ‘Man, you’re not going to last in this league if you keep playing like that.’ Rick Sund was the first to tell me.
“Coming into the league, I never imagined shooting the three-ball,” Horford continued. “I definitely was on edge at times when I began attempting threes in games. Players start looking at you’re crazy. You know how we are in the league, like, ‘Hell, nah. He’s trying to shoot threes?’ So it was that type of thing you had to deal with.”
Horford shares some other interesting nuggets about his basketball journey over the years in the interview with Haynes. You can read it in full here.
Now in his 15th NBA season, Horford played for Atlanta from 2007 (when he was drafted) until 2016. Over his first eight seasons, Horford attempted just 65 total three-pointers. But in the 2015-16 campaign, Horford really let it fly with 256 three-point attempts that year (he connected on 34.0 percent of them). Since then, Horford has turned himself into a very respectable 36.0 percent three-point shooter for his career, including an elite 42.9 percent conversion rate in the 2017-18 season.
Horford’s long-range flair has also unlocked all kinds of doors for Boston during their Finals run this season. The Celtics have the luxury of starting him alongside rim-runner Robert Williams in the frontcourt, knowing that Horford will provide plenty of breathing room for the offense. Meanwhile, when Boston downsizes, Horford can move into a stretch 5 role, allowing them to play three-guard sets (Marcus Smart, Derrick White, and Jaylen Brown, for instance) around Jayson Tatum. Horford’s shooting ability was on full display in Game 1 of the Finals as well, as he went 6-for-8 on threes to finish with a team-high 26 points and lead Boston’s stunning comeback.
As for Sund, he is still with the Hawks and now serves as their senior advisor of basketball operations. It turns out Horford has plenty to thank Sund for, especially with Horford now free of one of the NBA’s most shameful records.