Al Horford talks about time with Thunder, what they’re currently building

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder saw a familiar face during their signature win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

Coming off the bench for the Celtics, Al Horford has enjoyed a successful second stint with Boston. Before returning to the Celtics, Horford spent a season with the Thunder during the 2020-21 campaign.

This aligned with Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault’s first season under the helm and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s first season as OKC’s top option.

Even though he only appeared in 28 games during that season, he built a rapport with both individuals as they’ve led the Thunder to one of the best records in the league.

Before the game, Daigneault spoke highly of Horford, saying how fortunate he was to have such a savvy veteran his first year as head coach.

“I told him this multiple times and as recently as I think this summer,” Daigneault said. “But every first-year NBA head coach should be as lucky as I was to have Al Horford on their team.”

Daigneault began to reminisce on Horford’s brief stint with the Thunder, praising his professionalism and ability to buy into such a young team at the time after spending years on contenders.

Before the big matchup between two of the best teams in the league, Horford spoke with local reporters to talk about his time in OKC and what he thinks of the Thunder. Here’s what the 37-year-old had to stay on what the Thunder are building:

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: You were here during SGA's first season as the main option, what do you think of the progress he's made since then?

“Really big progress. I feel like when I was here, he was starting to come into his own. We all felt and knew that he had that capability, but it’s been pretty amazing just to see how he continues to get better and how the team in general has continued to buy into the way that they’re trying to play.

“They’ve gotten better quickly. Although it’s obvious now that they’re one of the better teams in the league.”

Q: Mark Daigneault spoke highly of your time here, what was your time like here looking back?

“Very enjoyable. A lot of learning for me, especially from the coach. I felt like we had such a young group. And for me, it was kind of like a fresh start to come in here and really learn how he wanted us to play the game. Things that I didn’t really think about as a player, as a veteran.

“I feel like he really challenged me in that way. For me, it was it was a really good experience being here.”

Q: How much of your time in OKC has impacted your successful second stint with the Celtics?

“It obviously made me a better player, a better person for being here. My biggest thing was, I wish as far as being able to play in front of the fans and kind of get that connection going. We never really were able to because of the circumstances — but besides that, everything was very, very pleasant, very enjoyable here.”

Q: In your first stint in Boston, you saw the Celtics rise to contention with a young core, do you see a similar trajectory with OKC?

“Yeah, I mean, I feel like it’s very unique what OKC has going right here. Especially to have guys that are just developing very, very quickly. Everybody seems to understand what their job is on the floor. They all seem to enjoy one another.

“To your point, yeah, I just see them continuing to get better. Coach Daigneault I feel like is doing a good job of kinda laying it out for the guys but also the guys I feel like are buying into everything they need to and trying to play the right way.

“When you mix talent and hard work, guys playing the right way, it’s gonna lead to good things. Yeah, I think they are a contender right now and they’re just gonna keep getting better.”

Q: Besides SGA, Chet and Jalen Williams are seen as the other cornerstones. What do you think of their respective game?

“Just very impressed. Very impressed on how quickly they’ve been able to grasp the NBA game and make an impact. Sometimes, as a young player like that, there’s a lot of things that are being thrown at you and you kinda have to put everything together and kinda go.

“But for them to be able to come in here and have the maturity and just be very smart about how they’re picking everything up. It’s been very impressive because it’s one thing to have the skill and the ability. Another thing is to be able to start putting it together so quickly.

“So I think, pretty much for Chet obviously, being able to watch over the last year I think is very helpful. Williams is doing a great job, just taking a huge leap from last year. So it’s been pretty impressive to see.”

Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire