Celtics’ Al Horford on the Thunder as contenders, what he took from his time in OKC

The Boston Celtics may have lost the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, but it’s hard to win in the NBA, and the Celtics have no shame in coming up just short to one of the best teams in the league so far this season on a night when bad shooting and defensive lapses proved too much to overcome vs. such an opponent.

And the Celtics can attribute a fair amount of that success apart from the Thunder loss to a trade with that same team to bring back veteran Boston big man Al Horford at the start of Brad Stevens’ tenure as team president. Our sister site Thunder Wire caught up with Horford ahead of the game to talk about that transition, and the growth he sees in his former ball club.

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

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in particular has taken strides as a legitimate Most Valuable Player candidate this season compared to where he was at during Horford’s OKC tenure, which the Dominican forward spoke to.

“Really big progress,” said Horford. “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.”

The Florida alum looked back at his time with the Thunder positively, sharing how it helped shape him as a player.

“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 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 a really good experience being here,” added Horford.

As to how that era of his career is impacting his return to Boston, Horford was quick to credit his time with the Thunder for changing him for the better.

“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,” he recalled.

Horford also sees a bit of the Celtics in the Thunder in terms of how they have grown into a legitimate title threat since his time with the team. “I feel like it’s very unique what OKC has going right here,” he said.

“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.”

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

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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire