LOS ANGELES -- Al Horford is credited for consistently being someone whose play contributes heavily to winning games.
But it was in defeat in the playoffs nearly a decade ago to the Boston Celtics that has shaped him into the player we see before us today.
“They were a tough team,” Horford said of the eventual NBA champion Celtics. “Defensively, just as good as they come. They looked like a very together group.”
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Horford added, “It helped me tremendously. It helped that team that I was with in Atlanta, a lot. To have that experience, to go against the eventual champions but at that time a veteran team like the Celtics, it really but really made me realize the level I needed to play and the things I needed to do to for the team to be successful.”
And those lessons have helped shape the 31-year-old into being a five-time All-Star whose teams have been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA.
“That first year could not have gone any better. It was a great learning experience and I felt it helped set up the rest of my career,” Horford said.
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These days, Horford finds himself as the voice of experience on a Celtics team that has been among the NBA’s best squads for most of this season.
Horford has an open-door policy when it comes to doling out advice and tips for improvement, to his younger teammates.
But he knows first-hand the greatest teacher is experience.
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“You can say things but you have to live through different things,” Horford said. “The biggest thing I try to emphasize to them and [Brad Stevens] talks about, is embracing the now. It’s about taking advantage of what we have now.
Horford added, "I've been in the league, this is my 11th year, you never know if you’re going to have the same teammates next year. That happened to us last year. We had a great year and I look around and it’s only four of us remaining. I just think it’s embracing and taking advantage of doing the best you can with the group you have.”