Kyrie and Others Rave About Horford Ahead of Skills Challenge
LOS ANGELES – Many of the NBA’s top players raved about Al Horford’s skill set ahead of tonight’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge as part of All-Star Saturday night.
Horford is one of four big men who will participate in the competition, along with Joel Embiid, Lauri Markkanen and Andre Drummond. The other challengers are guards Spencer Dinwiddie, Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray and Lou Williams.
Celtics.com asked two of Horford’s opponents about his chances tonight, and both gave him glowing reviews.
“Well he can shoot, he can dribble, he can pass, and I think that’s what the Skills Competition is,” said Williams, who just faced off against Horford and the Celtics Wednesday night in Boston. “I think we’ve got to throw the ball through three hoops three different ways, you’ve got to make a jump shot, you’ve got to dribble through the cones. Those are all things that he does on a daily basis, so it shouldn’t be any different for the competition.”
Markkanen, a 20-year-old rookie from the Chicago Bulls, has looked up to Horford for years because of the five-time All-Star’s skillful versatility.
“He can do multiple things,” Markkanen said. “That’s one of the guys that I learn from is Al. He can do everything on the court.”
Maybe the best resource to ask about what Horford brings to the table is his teammate and co-All-Star, Kyrie Irving. Irving made it sound as if Horford should be considered as a favorite to win the competition.
“That’s easy, man. That’s easy for Al. That’s easy,” he said with a chuckle. “Dribbling a basketball, shooting a 3, weaving between the defenders a little bit, or the stick guys that they have up there… it’ll be fun for him.”
Horford didn’t say that running through the course will be easy for him, but he did agree with Irving that he will have fun tonight. He’s already enjoying himself while preparing for the event, and that’s why he committed to participating in it in the first place.
“I think it’s going to be fun for me, honestly, just hanging out with Joel (Embiid) already,” Horford said with a big smile Saturday afternoon. “It’s a blast being around him and some of the other guys. I’m just really trying to make the most of it.
“I think that I have a good chance. So I’ll obviously take it round by round, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Horford would be lying if he said he didn’t have a good chance. Although most fans would assume that the competition is tailored for guards, the last two champions, Kristaps Porzingis (who is injured and cannot defend his crown) and Karl-Anthony Towns, are both big men.
Horford is as skilled as both of those players, as his fellow NBA players described this afternoon, so don’t be surprised if he comes away with a trophy tonight.
The action tips off at 8 p.m. EST on TNT. Following the Skills Challenge, the league’s top shooters will participate in the JBL Three-Point Shootout before the top dunkers come together to participate in the Verizon Slam Dunk contest.