When Hawks GM Danny Ferry traded Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets for spare parts, the reaction among Hawks fans was largely euphoric. When he followed this up by dumping Marvin Williams on the Utah Jazz, it seemed for a while that Ferry could do no wrong. However, there’s one interested party who seems conspicuously less-enamored with Ferry’s moves than the average Hawks fan: Al Horford.
In an interview with NBA.com writer Sekou Smith, Horford expressed dissatisfaction with Atlanta’s off-season moves.
I was under the impression some changes were going to happen. They didn’t happen. And I have to deal with it and adjust to this new style of play.
Then, in an interview with TNT and NBA.com analyst David Aldridge published on the eve of opening night, Horford made this ominous pronouncement:
I do trust that Danny’s moving in the right direction, but like you said, I have been in [the league] seven years already. Some things are going to have to happen the next few years.
All of this echoes what I wrote over the summer, that Horford’s impending free agency in 2016 is the most important date in future Hawks history. What’s interesting is that a trade of Paul Millsap for Omer Asik would finally give the Hawks a defensive center to take some of that burden away from Horford. However, it would also destroy the team’s spacing and possibly ruin the surprising early chemistry the current-edition Hawks have developed.
Tonight’s contest with the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that just got through dismantling the East-leading Indiana Pacers, will be another measuring-stick game. Since Nov. 29th, the Hawks have beaten Dallas, defeated the L.A. Clippers and lost to the Spurs on a shot with .4 seconds remaining. That’s three solid games against teams in playoff position in the supposedly-indomitable West in the space of two weeks. At what point does Horford say, this is my team and we can compete with what we have?
I always thought it was a cop-out that Larry Drew divided the captaincy of the Hawks among Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Horford. If any of those players was the team’s true leader, it wouldn’t have needed to be done by committee. By the same token, Mike Budenholzer’s rotating captaincy strikes me as a sign that Horford has not stepped up and claimed the leadership mantle of this team.
Horford is already widely regarded as one of the league’s 20 best players. Jeff Teague is one of the best point guards in the East. Millsap has proven to be a more-than-adequate replacement for Smith. Lou Williams is back and balling sooner than expected. Kyle Korver is playing out of his mind. Does Horford want management to dismantle this team and obtain an offensively-challenged center to reduce his defensive burden? Or does he want to win now? Is this your team, Al Horford?