Al Horford will be a free agent next summer, but he’s already shut down speculation about his future. He isn’t going to talk about it until after the season. In a wide-ranging interview with Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated, Horford reiterated his stance, but added that he’s happy with the Hawks:
For me, I’m very happy in Atlanta. It’s one of those things where I don’t want any contract talks to be a distraction for my team and me. I feel like my focus this year is for us to build and be better. Since we can’t do anything right now, we’ll wait until the season’s over and then we can start talking about all that.
Horford also spoke about the importance of re-signing Paul Millsap, which the team did in July, and the overall continuity of the Hawks’ roster:
SI.com: How big was it for the Hawks to be able to keep Paul Millsap?
Horford: It was very important. I think that was the priority for us, to make sure we brought Paul back. Being able to add Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway, really was big. Unfortunately, we lost DeMarre [Carroll, who signed long-term with Toronto]—he’s such a great player, but it was the type of thing he couldn’t turn down, and it’s what’s best for him and his family.
SI.com: Was there a sense going into the offseason that you’d only be able to keep one out of Paul and DeMarre?
Horford: I honestly thought there was a chance we’d be able to keep them both. But it just didn’t work out that way. I’m happy for DeMarre, but I’m happy for us, being able to keep Paul, he’s such an important part of what we do. Just his versatility. He makes the game easier for all of us.
SI.com: How critical is keeping that continuity with the core players, especially with the style you guys play?
Horford: I feel like we’ve built chemistry, we trust each other and it’s important to have the same group of guys. This was our first full season, all of us together playing under the system. In coach [Mike Budenholzer]’s first year [2013–14] I was injured. So I’m looking forward to this season to keep building on what we have.
The Hawks had their most successful season in franchise history in 2014-15, winning 60 games and making the Eastern Conference Finals. With the exception of Carroll, the core is returning, and they’ve made some nice additions of role players. Whether they’ll be able to replicate their regular-season success from last year or not, they’re still in the mix as contenders in the East. And as long as that’s true, they remain the favorites to keep Horford next summer.