BOSTON -- The Wizards almost looked like a very different team with their courtship of Al Horford, now the centerpiece for the Boston Celtics heading into their semifinal series that begins Sunday at TD Garden.
They were one of the three teams that Horford, who had decided to leave the Atlanta Hawks after nine years, to make the final cut along with the Houston Rockets. President Ernie Grunfeld and vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard hopped a flight to Atlanta to try to woo the 6-10 big man to D.C. even though they already had Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris in place.
In the end, it all worked out for everyone as both teams are now in the conference semis, where the Hawks eliminated the Wizards two years ago with Horford in the middle. He averaged 14 points and six rebounds with the No. 1 seed in the conference.
"Me and him had a great conversation. He told me it was down to (us), them and I think Houston. He made his final decision after that, you've got to move on," Wall said of Horford. "It would've been great to have him on our team but he's with the Celtics. They had a great season this year. He had a heck of a season and we're competring against him now so all that texting, all we had is out the window."
Horford will present a much different challenge for Gortat. He's not a traditional big who will bruise under the rim and collect double-digit rebounds. He can shoot threes and put the ball on the floor. Morris could end up spending extended time on him, too.
"He was already a (spread) five when guys wasn't doing that in the past . That's where he played," Wall said. "He did a heck of a job of that. He does a great job of shooting the ball. He's spreading his range to three. Just bring a lot of physicality and toughness. He gives every thing he has every time he's on the court.
"It's going to be a different type of matchup. Dwight didn't come out on the permiter. He was always trying to get rebounds and score in the low post. Does a great job of catching lobs but Horford, he does a great job of picking and popping. Rolling at times. He's a big guy that can put the ball on the floor like (Paul) Millsap."
Millsap gave the Wizards fits in a first-round series they won in six games on Friday night. But even though Millsap was listed as the power forward during his last year with Horford and was the better three-point shooter, it was Horford who played more on the perimeter.
He sets high-post screens to free cutters and guards like Isaiah Thomas which is why Horford averaged 5.0 assists during the regular season. In a six-game series with the Chicago Bulls, Horford's assists rose to 6.5 per game. And when the Wizards lost the crucial Game 5 in Atlanta in 2015, it was the more mobile Horford who swooped in for the game-winning putback dunk at the buzzer over the other plodding bigs.
Wall wanted to play the Hawks because he said he owed them from that series in which he missed three games with a broken hand. Horford was a key piece to that misery and he surely remembers his role in that disappointment, too, regardless of friendship.