Al Horford: Missing Thunder's Last 28 Games Was Planned to Put Him in 'Best Position'

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVMay 17, 2021

Oklahoma City Thunder center Al Horford (42) during an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Oklahoma City Thunder center Al Horford was a healthy scratch for the team's final 28 games of the season, but the veteran explained Monday that was the plan all along.

"We've had great communication since the moment I got here, and leading to that point, once Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander]'s injury happened, it just kind of brought that question even sooner," Horford said, per Royce Young of ESPN.

Gilgeous-Alexander missed the final two months of the season due to a foot injury, effectively taking the Thunder out of playoff contention while allowing them to focus on the future.

"Both of us understanding that the team also wanted to play younger guys and see what they could do with their development, and for me, for myself, health-wise, what's best for me, putting me in the best position to be able to play at a high level for many years to come," Horford added.

The Thunder went 3-25 after Horford was shut down for the season, including a stretch of 23 losses in 24 games before winning the final game of the year. At 22-50 overall, the team tied for the fourth-worst record in the NBA.

The late-season collapse gives the Thunder an 11.5 percent chance of landing the first pick of the 2021 NBA draft and a 45.1 percent chance of getting in the top four, per Tankathon

Oklahoma City also got extended minutes to young prospects like Darius Bazley, Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski, helping it evaluate its roster going forward.

The 34-year-old Horford isn't expected to be part of the rebuilding process despite two years and $53.5 million left on his contract. Young reported the team will look to trade him in the offseason, and the center agreed that it's a possibility.

"I'm sure that I'll be talking with the team and we'll figure out what's best," Horford said.

The five-time All-Star had initially signed a four-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers but didn't fit well in the rotation and was traded to the Thunder after just one year. The 76ers added Danny Green in the deal, and the team thrived with the improved spacing while earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.