Al Horford shut down sooner than planned, but he’ll remain around Thunder

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Logan Newman
·3 min read
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The Oklahoma City Thunder announced Saturday that veteran center Al Horford will be shut down by the team, but he will remain around during practices, workouts and home games to continue helping the younger players on the roster.

Head coach Mark Daigneault said that sometimes there can be tension within a team when a prominent player is on a different timeline than the rest of an emerging core, but that has not been the case in Oklahoma City.

“Not only was it not a tension, but Al enhanced the development of the team. He’s done unbelievable work this year — not only as a player for himself, but the investments he’s made in our environment and in our younger players have just been incredible,” Daigneault said.

“He’s going to get to continue to do that as a teammate. … That’s something that he’s expressed, is he feels very invested in this team and specifically with these players.”

The Thunder are diving into deeper development of their younger players. Head coach Mark Daigneault said that the team had planned to eventually shut Horford down, but the foot injury to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander altered their timeline for the remainder of the season.

“With Shai’s injury, it probably just expedited that a little bit, to where we then went to him and said, ‘Hey, what do we think about this? That was a collaborative discussion, obviously,” Daigneault said. “We’re a different team without Shai, and so that probably sped it up a little bit.”

With Theo Maledon and Ty Jerome seeing an increased role at guard without Gilgeous-Alexander in the lineup, Moses Brown emerging as a stat-stuffing, energetic center, and the trade for Tony Bradley, the Thunder have a glut of young players they want to evaluate.

“The bigger picture thing is as we get closer to the end of the season, we’re prioritizing experience and playing time and developmental touchpoints for our less-experienced players, which I don’t think is news to anybody,” Daigneault said

Horford, in a statement released by the Thunder, spoke about mentoring his teammates over the remaining month-and-a-half of the season.

I understand how important playing meaningful minutes is for their careers and their development. I also understand how important it is for the organization to give them that opportunity. I’m looking forward to supporting the guys who supported me, watching them continue to play the right way and play together as we have throughout the season, while still being around the team and continuing my training.”

Horford will not travel with the team, according to Daigneault, but he will be at home games and continue to be around practices.

While he played in games, he was able to increase his trade value and show that his contract isn’t the albatross it looked when he was on the Philadelphia 76ers. This offseason, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, general manager Sam Presti will work to find a trade destination for Horford “that fits better with this stage of his career.”

“It’s a really unique situation where we are as an organization. The team’s in the developmental phase, as we’ve been in all year, and then you’ve got this guy in Al Horford that’s an unbelievably proven player, that’s playing at a really high level at this point in his career,” Daigneault said.

“Balancing kind of where the team’s at and also what’s best for Al was something that was a high priority for us coming into the season, and I think it’s something that we’ve done really well.”

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