How 2008 Loss To Celtics Helped Shape Al Horford’s NBA Career

Boston Celtics forward Al Horford

Photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

It turns out the Boston Celtics taught Al Horford a valuable lesson long before he signed with the organization during the summer of 2016.

Horford was just a rookie in 2008 when his Atlanta Hawks lost to the Celtics in seven games in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. It was the first step toward Boston — led by The Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen — winning a title that postseason, and it was the first significant learning experience of Horford’s NBA career.

“It helped me tremendously. It helped that team that I was with in Atlanta, a lot,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston’s A. Sherrod Blakely during this past weekend’s NBA’s All-Star festivities in Los Angeles. “To have that experience, to go against the eventual champions but at that time a veteran team like the Celtics, it really but really made me realize the level I needed to play and the things I needed to do to for the team to be successful.”

“That first year could not have gone any better,” the big man added, per Blakely. “It was a great learning experience and I felt it helped set up the rest of my career.”

Flash forward to 2018 and Horford, in the midst of his 11th NBA season (and second with the Celtics), is one of Boston’s most important players, serving as a franchise leader both on and off the court. The Celtics’ young core looks up to the 31-year-old, who’s coming off his fifth NBA All-Star selection, and he’s doing what he can to help relay the lessons he’s learned since entering The Association as a first-round pick (third overall) in 2007.

“You can say things, but you have to live through different things,” Horford told Blakely. “The biggest thing I try to emphasize to them and (Celtics coach Brad Stevens) talks about, is embracing the now. It’s about taking advantage of what we have now.”

A lot has changed over the last decade. But Horford’s early crash course paved the way for what’s been a very successful career to this point, and the Celtics now are reaping the benefits.

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