WASHINGTON -- The meeting last summer with the Boston Celtics went about as well as Al Horford could have expected.
He liked the players on hand, a contingent that included Isaiah Thomas, who had been in Horford’s ear during All-Star weekend.
Horford liked the ownership group that, along with coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, seemed to all share the same vision and direction for the franchise.
The former Atlanta Hawk had spent his entire NBA career with one organization, so walking away wasn’t going to be easy.
But as he went back and forth weighing all his options, Horford found himself consistently coming back to Boston as the best fit, the right choice, the place he would soon call home.
“It just felt right . . . this was where I felt would be the best fit for me and my family,” Horford told CSNNE.com earlier this season.
And when Horford informed the Celtics he was coming aboard, everything changed.
No longer was Boston seen as a city that could not attract elite, in-demand free agents.
Other than Kevin Durant, who signed with Golden State (and included Boston on his short list of teams), Horford was the most in-demand free agent this past summer.
Because wherever Horford goes, winning comes with him.
“He helps you win because he does every little thing at both ends of the court, and the way that he carries himself off the court,” Stevens said. “He talks, people listen; he says the right things and all those other things.”
Stevens has built this club in a similar fashion to the teams he had at Butler University, teams whose collective sums always trumped their individual talents.
And no player better embodies that trait than Horford, a max-salary player whose skills just flow across the stat sheet like an Olympic skater at the top of their game.
Because of Horford, the Celtics’ core is whole.
And when whole, they have proven to be a team whose growth this season has prepared them for this moment to do what so few felt they were capable of a few months -- advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
Boston finds itself one victory away from achieving this goal heading into tonight’s Game 6 matchup with the Washington Wizards.
As important as Horford’s arrival has been to the Boston Celtics, the full narrative on this team’s success lies in the strength of their core group, which. along with Horford, includes Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas.