It hasn’t been the smoothest road for Al Horford since he left the Boston Celtics to sign with Philadelphia in free agency.
But at least his split from the Oklahoma City will be more amicable than that with the 76ers, who traded him on the night of the 2020 NBA Draft.
Following a report revealing the Thunder’s plan to shut the five-time All-Star center down for the remainder of the season in order to give younger players more opportunity amid their rebuild, both Horford and general manager Sam Presti released statements confirming as much.
“When I arrived, I understood the direction of the team, we had a great individual plan in place for me, and I feel like as a result I’ve played really good basketball for the Thunder,” Horford said, via the team’s release.
“At the same time, I know what it’s like to be a young, aspiring player, and at this point in the season I understand how important playing meaningful minutes is for their careers and their development. I also understand how important it is for the organization to give them that opportunity. I’m looking forward to supporting the guys who supported me, watching them continue to play the right way and play together as we have throughout the season, while still being around the team and continuing my training.”
Horford, 34, will continue to train with the team, and from the sounds of it, mentor some of his younger teammates. The Thunder will work on a suitable offseason trade for both parties.
Regardless of the direction the team is heading in, Oklahoma City seems grateful for his presence.
“We’ve talked with Al from the time he became a member of the Thunder this offseason about the many ways in which he would be able to help us as we entered the early stages of the necessary transition of our team,” Presti said in the statement.
“From day one Al has been a consummate professional and has had a tremendous influence on the team on and off the floor with his work ethic and total commitment to his teammates. Our conversation have been open and ongoing about how to maximize this season for him personally as well as the development of our team. Al has been nothing short of spectacular and will remain a part of the team as we build on an approach and mentality that we have taken for some time.”
Horford is set to make $27.5 million, $27 million and $26.5 million over the next three seasons — including this season — suggesting he might not want to be bought out. At the same time, though, it won’t be easy for the Thunder to unload his contract on another team.