Al Horford said he was surprised how much the 76ers wanted him. But should he have been?
Last month, Horford opted out of the final year of his contract with the Boston Celtics. It would have paid $30.1 million.
He was looking for a multi-year deal, and the Sixers were more than willing to oblige.
Horford, a five-time All-Star, on Wednesday signed a four-year contract that guarantees him $97 million and could earn him up to $109 million.
Now he joins his former team’s chief rival.
“When I decided to opt out, it wasn’t an easy decision,” Horford said after he was introduced at a news conference Friday with five other signees at the Sixers’ practice facility in Camden. “I did it and felt like there would be a lot of options for me.”
He was right.
Yet Horford insisted that the Sixers caught him a little off-guard.
“I was very surprised that there was strong interest for me being here and that made the decision very easy,” he said. “It was very easy and I am excited to be a part of it.”
Horford is known as one of the more professional players in the NBA. He has been to the playoffs in each of his 11 NBA seasons, eight with the Atlanta Hawks and the last three with the Celtics. That includes Boston’s elimination of the Sixers in five games in the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference semifinals.
Horford has never won an NBA title, but he was on consecutive NCAA championship teams, in 2006 and 2007, at the University of Florida.
He said the chance to come to a team that has a viable chance to win an NBA title played into his decision.
“Yes, that was a priority for me,” he said. “I think the opportunity to play for this type of organization, for this city, was something that I really had to consider and look at.”
What Sixers general manager Elton Brand likes most is the versatility that the 6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward-center possesses.
Horford, 33, is an unselfish offensive player and a strong defender. Plus, it appears the Sixers plan to give Joel Embiid a few more games off this year so he is feeling stronger come playoff time.
Brand also has no worries about Horford’s playing power forward alongside Embiid.
“From a roster implementation and style, feel, and fit, we know they can play together, we know they can play well together,” Brand said. “But the opportunity to have Al back him up at times, especially in the playoffs, and be the [center] is a great opportunity for us.”
Brand also said that Kyle O’Quinn, signed as a free agent from the Indiana Pacers, will also give the team greater depth at center.
Horford is among the NBA’s more versatile defensive players. Against the Sixers, he has guarded point guard Ben Simmons and Embiid in the same game.
Horford, who says he has always been a fan of Embiid’s, said it was always challenging going up against him.
“There were some great battles, and when this opportunity came along, the possibility of teaming up with him got me really excited about the potential – how good we can be – help our team be defensively” Horford said. “Just get to working together and do some special things.”
A career .411 three-point shooter, Horford has never taken a high volume of shots. For his career, he has averaged just 11.3 shots per game. Defense remains his No. 1 concern.