ATLANTA – Knowing how things ended between Al Horford and the Atlanta Hawks, you had to expect there would be a contingent of boo birds in the building.
It wasn’t a few … it was a lot, enough to where Horford and his Boston Celtics teammates noticed.
If anything, it made Horford’s teammates lock in more on getting the victory for him which they did by a final score of 103-101.
Isaiah Thomas drained the game-winning shot over Kent Bazemore, who pounded the Philips Arena floor before Thomas’ put the Celtics ahead with 2.4 seconds to play.
When Thomas saw Bazemore hit the floor, he knew he had to hit the shot to put the game away.
“(Kent) Bazemore had that look in his eye like he was going to get a stop,” Thomas said. “I had other plans.”
And with that shot, the game was over and the Horford returns home narrative can be put to bed.
But it by all accounts didn’t go quite as smoothly as folks thought it would.
For starters, Horford got a very mixed response with slightly more boos from the crowd when he was introduced last among the starters.
And when the game started, they booed him every time he touched the ball.
Even between the first and second quarters, the fans’ reaction was a bit more positive but certainly not what you would expect when you consider where the franchise was during Horford’s time there (nine straight playoff appearances and a franchise-record 60 wins just a couple years ago) and how they were prior to him being selected with the third overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft (eight consecutive seasons missing the playoffs, finishing no better than 11th in the East during that span).
Horford acknowledged the reception he received caught him a bit off-guard.
“I didn't want to say anything but it is what it is,” said Horford who finished with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. “I know there's a lot of fans out there that appreciated my time here and I appreciate them.”
While Horford tried to not let the boos bother him, it certainly was something that his teammates took offense to.
“I mean, you don't boo a guy like that. You're not turning down money like that,” said Thomas, referring to the four-year, $113 million contract Horford signed with the Celtics. “None of them people (that are) booing, are turning down that money so he went to a situation he thought was maybe a little better and like I said, a guy like that, with that type of character you can't boo. That's disrespectful.”
Boston’s Kelly Olynyk added, “I was a little surprised (at the crowd reaction). I figured it would happen because that’s the way it goes in this business. But he did a lot for this team, this organization and this community. We saw that from the outside. Now seeing that from the inside, and seeing what he does for our team, our organization and our city is pretty special. It’s tough but it is the business. Hopefully through the boos they still appreciate everything he’s done for them.”