BOSTON – One of the reasons Boston was all-in on signing Al Horford this past summer was because of the 6-foot-10 big man’s ability to stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting.
But you have to remember; the majority of Horford’s career in the NBA has been spent patrolling the basket as an effective inside scorer.
In Horford’s first eight seasons the four-time all-star took a total of 65 three-pointers.
Last season with the Atlanta Hawks, Horford launched 256 three-pointers while averaging 3.1 attempts per game.
Now with Boston, he has taken a total of 64 three-point attempts in 15 games for a 4.3 attempts per game average.
But against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, Horford’s aggressiveness led to a rare game in which Horford had more free throw attempts (8) than Isaiah Thomas (7).
That attacking brand of basketball that Horford unveiled on Friday has not been something we’ve seen much of this season.
But it was on full display in Boston’s 96-88 win over Charlotte, something he’ll try to keep going on Sunday against the Miami Heat.
“He (Horford) was good,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following Friday’s win. “We need him to be really good.”
To do that, Horford’s versatility has to be on display at a high level like we saw against Charlotte.
Teammates here in Boston as well as with his former team in Atlanta, have routinely praised Horford for his unselfish play and his eye for finding teammates for easy scores.
He’s averaging a career-high 5.3 assists per game leads all NBA centers this season and his 3.36:1 assists-to-turnover ratio is tops among Celtics players.
“He’s not a black hole when he gets the ball down low,” Boston’s Jonas Jerebko told CSNNE.com. “You know it’ll come out and it’ll come to you if you’re open. It’s a lot of fun playing with a big man like that.”
But the balancing act Horford has to establish is remaining that impactful ball facilitator while also making his presence felt around the rim scoring the ball on top of doing all the little and not-so-little things at the defensive end of the floor.
It’s a lot to ask for sure.
But the Celtics are more than confident he’s up to the challenge which is why they didn’t hesitate to offer him a four-year, $113 million max contract this summer.
Against the Hornets, Horford had 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go with eight rebounds, five assists and five blocked shots.
But the true balance he struck can be found in other measurable such as passing and touches.
Horford had a team-high 68 passes against the Hornets, in addition to 84 touches which was second on the team to Isaiah Thomas’ 86.
And to show he wasn’t just getting it done offensively, Horford limited the man he was guarding to shooting just 1-for-7 on shots at the rim.
Horford acknowledged he went into the Hornets game looking to be more impactful around the rim.
“A lot of times this year, I’ve been playing on the perimeter a little more,” Horford said. “I have the ability to do both.”