The Atlanta Hawks drafted Al Horford third overall in 2007 and a team that hadn’t been in the playoffs since the turn of the century hasn’t missed the postseason since then. The big power forward/center has been an All-Star four times and knows how fortunate he’s been. Atlanta has a hold on Horford that isn’t going to be easy for other NBA franchises to break when he becomes a free agent this summer.
“I’ve been very fortunate because some guys, they never get to be part of a playoff team, they never get to experience it,” Horford told Pro Bball Report. “I think the older you get, the more you realize that it’s just not given, it’s actually a big deal. I like the team that we have. I feel that we can do some special things. I am just glad we have the opportunity to be in the playoffs this year.”
Horford turns 30 in June and has spent all of his nine NBA seasons with the Hawks, something that is becoming more of a rarity with each passing year. Staying that long with one team in one city allows a player to put down roots and become part of a community. Stability, especially with a well run successful organization is a comfortable place to be.
“For me it brings a lot of stability,” Horford said. “My family, most of them live in Atlanta. We have kind of made our niche there. There have been some coaching changes and things like that, but just the fact that you are in the same city and same organization, its been nice to see the Hawks organization grow to a better place and our fans starting to rally more and more around us, so it’s been really nice.”
Horford was joined by Jeff Teague two years later when the point guard was drafted 19th overall by the Hawks in 2009 and having long term teammates only strengthens the bond to a franchise. It helps an organization be successful.
“I think so,” Horford said. “It gives stability. I feel like you have guys that can teach the guys that are coming in or at least show them what to expect. It brings a lot of stability into a locker room.”
After nine years, it’s like Horford has become a fixture in the Hawks organization. He knows everybody and everybody knows him. It seemed strange to see his name being bandied about as a trade target at the NBA trade deadline because of his pending unrestricted free agent status this July. Horford hasn’t given the impression he wants to leave Atlanta.
“I know everybody, the front office, coaches, ball boys. I am just very familiar with everyone,” Horford said. “I’ve just been really lucky and it’s something I don’t take it for granted. I am very grateful.”
“(Free agency) is one of those things that a person has to feel comfortable and at peace with whatever decision they make. There are going to be great opportunities with all the (league) revenues going up. At the end of the day, especially for guys that have been on multiple teams and have seen how different it can be and maybe not be part of a playoff team every year, I feel that guys will be willing to sacrifice, but it all depends on the individual. It really depends on where you are at financially, how do you feel about the team you are with?”
At this point it seems like only the Hawks themselves could make Horford feel like he’d want a change this July, but there won’t be a lack of other suitors. Horford’s services will be in high demand as a reliable, no-nonsense All-Star who could be the missing piece on a contending team or the missing piece on a team just outside of the playoff picture.
However, Horford is comfortable in Atlanta. The city and the franchise has a hold on their All-Star. This pending free agent doesn’t sound like a player looking for the exits.