Dallas Mavericks v Atlanta Hawks

Al Horford’s been on Danny Ferry’s speed dial all summer. He’s liked how the conversations have gone on the Atlanta Hawks future.

The centre, currently in London on an NBA promotional trip, woke up to the news that the Hawks had matched the Milwaukee Bucks’ four-year, $32 million offer sheet to restricted free agent Jeff Teague.

“I’m very happy to be able to have him back,” said Horford. “We’ve been playing together for a few years and I know his strengths so it’s great to have him signing on.”

That’s the latest building block on what Ferry hopes will be a drive into the NBA’s elite, with a new coach, a new All Star recruit, and, likely, a largely revamped bench by the team Horford comes back to the UK next January for the Hawks’ regular season clash with Brooklyn in London.

“We’ve been speaking a lot,” he says of his conversations with his GM. “I’ve given him my thoughts. When they ask for my advice and what I think of different players. That’s good for me. It lets me know the Hawks care what I have to say and getting my input. I’ve been speaking to Danny more than ever with all this free agency going on.“

He will sit down soon with new head coach Mike Budenholzer, once he has unwound from San Antonio’s trip to the NBA Finals and throws himself into moulding the new-look Hawks into a team which can go beyond the first round of the play-offs.

The pace, and the approach he expected to bring should see a much-transformed look.

“I feel like with the system he’ll bring: a lot of pick n rolls and fast breaking will be really good for me and the team,” Horford said. “I just hope I can figure it out as quickly as possible so we can really hit the ground running this season because that’s going to be really beneficial for me.”

So too, he hopes, will be the new inside tandem with Paul Millsap, with the All Star power forward’s arrival giving Atlanta one of the toughest low-post combos in the league, filling the void left by Josh Smith’s exit for Detroit. “That’s great for us. He’s such a versatile player and it’s going to mean we’re going to be really strong down low. So we’re looking forward to playing together.”

They’re not quite in the frame of title hopefuls, not yet, he says. But, he adds: “I think that Danny’s really moving things forward in terms of building this team. Unfortunately for us, there have been some struggles in getting fans in but with the way we’re putting together pieces with our team, I feel we are moving in the right direction to become contenders.”

Others are further down the road. “A lot of people aren’t talking about the Clippers but I feel they’ve made improvements,” adds Horford. “They’ve got some big pieces, Obviously with signing Chris Paul, and everybody’s looking to see what happens with Brooklyn with KG and Pierce there I feel like Brooklyn is going to be a very tough team.”

He will continue to watch with interest on his personal global tour. However, there is one other date pencilled into his summer diary with the Dominican Republic requesting Horford’s presence for the FIBA Americas Championships in September that will be the gateway to next year’s World Cup in Spain.

“It’s a decision I’ve been pondering a lot on,” he admits. “At this moment I haven’t decided if I’m going to play or not. I’m in a position where I’m doing a lot of events like this around the world with the NBA. And I have some other possible commitments in Africa around the time of the FIBA Americas. So that puts a bind on me playing for my country. And I have about a week to make my decision.”

Al Horford and the Atlanta Hawks will play the Brooklyn Nets and The O2  on January 16 as part of the NBA Global Games 2014. Tickets go on sale in October. For more information go to NBA UK Facebook and follow @ NBAUK


Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

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