Al Horford On Being The Man In Atlanta & Playing Out Of Position

Al Horford might be the NBA’s most under-appreciated star. A two-time Eastern Conference All-Star, the former Florida Gator just came off a season that saw him average career-highs in both points (17.4) and rebounds (10.2) per game in leading Atlanta to their sixth-straight postseason appearance. It’s not surprising, considering Horford was drafted six years ago. He’s a rock in the middle, and will be counted on more than ever before now that longtime Hawks Joe Johnson and Josh Smith are both gone.

In an offseason interview with Dime, Horford talks about how this season — where he’s averaging 19.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks for the .500 Hawks — will be his biggest challenge yet, and also what he likes to do when he’s not dunking on other NBA centers.

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1. [On next season] I’m embracing the challenge. Obviously I enjoyed the time that I got to play with Joe Johnson and with Josh Smith. We had such good chemistry especially with Josh and I. Now with things changing here I know that there is new role for me and it’s something that I welcome. Because of that I’m putting in a lot of extra work.

2. I’m going to have to be one of the leaders of the team and really lead by example with my work. Verbally, if I need to say anything I will. On the court as well, being able to do whatever it takes for us to win. Some nights is going to require me to score the ball more and some nights to rebound. Whatever it is, whatever it may be I’m ready for that. I feel good about some of the guys that we have here, you know with Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague. I think that he is probably the most important part to our team’s success. Jeff has proven that he can be really good with his game and I’m expecting a lot of big things out of him this season.

3. [On his position] Yeah, you know I was kind of dealing with that all summer because I was under the impression that I was going to play power forward and that is my natural position. But once I saw all the moves that the team made and I talked to coach, they kind of made me understand how their system works and how they feel I can be successful at center. It’s up to me. I am embracing that and I’m going to make the most out of playing center and be the best I can be.

4. I’m excited to play with Paul [Millsap] and getting to see what he’s about both on and off the court. Also Elton Brand, you know he’s a veteran who’s smart and knows how to play the game. I think [Dennis] Schroder is the type of kid who’s going to surprise some people. His tenacity, you can see it in his eyes that he just wants to get better. That’s something that’s a really good sign for us and I’m going to do everything that I can to try to help him and bring him along.

5. [On what drives him] Wow. Other than winning a NBA title? Man, all I think about is winning and being able to compete and being in a position to do something special. That’s really a good question. I am really just all about the team and winning. That’s probably the one thing I want to be remembered for is that.

6. [On if he’ll retire in Atlanta] Well, I’m not sure. I think it’s always good to keep your options open. I think I have time to determine how our team is doing and the steps that we are taking to be great. So that’s something that I have to consider when my time comes around if I’m still in that position. So if we’re competitive here and we feel good about what we have then yes. If not then I might have to reconsider.

7. [On off the court] Man I just enjoy being on the beach wherever that’s at, literally just lay in a nice hammock on the beach with my wife just hanging out. Or when I can’t do that and I have family in town here, I like to get together with them and have a cookout, or just get together and hangout and do something outdoors. I like to do things outdoors, especially in the summer time. Whether it’s biking or walking, just being outside makes me feel good. Those are things that I do to get away from the game.

8. I don’t really grill at all. I can’t go nowhere near the kitchen for anything, but I will definitely set it up. I’m lucky to have people who will cook for me.

9. In Atlanta there are a lot of nice trails. Usually I do the Silver Comet Trail and it goes literally all the way to Alabama. That one is a pretty cool. I’ve never made it all the way out there but I’ve definitely gone on some pretty long bike rides on that trail.

10. The best beaches are in the Dominican Republic. I don’t want to say this one because I feel like it’s my own private beach and it’s pretty hard to get to over there, but it’s called Playa Rincon. It’s in Samana. It’s a peninsula in DR and it’s pretty hard to get there, but it’s probably the best beach that I’ve ever been in. It’s a pretty special place.

How good can Horford be as the No. 1 option?

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