It didn’t take long for Al Horford to put his recruiting cap back on after rejoining the Boston Celtics this past summer. With his new team in need of an extra ball handler, the 35-year-old center picked up the phone, called former Atlanta Hawks teammate, Dennis Schroder, and made his pitch to the veteran free agent.
“(I told him) that we needed him. That we really needed him,” Horford recalls of the conversation. “I told him that how he plays and the things that he's about, I think that connects with the Celtics, with what this city is about. Dennis is a hard-nosed player, a competitor, and he's going to give it his all. And I was really on him about that, just telling him that here, he was going to really be able to show what he could do.”
Schroder was sold on the idea, but it wasn’t just the fit that lured him in. It was also the idea of being a part of a Horford-led locker room again that helped to seal the deal.
Through the first three seasons of Schroder’s career, Horford was the glue guy in Atlanta’s locker room. The young point guard respected how the elder center led by example, how he empowered everyone around him, and how each of his teammates was made better because of it.
The five years they spent apart revealed to Schroder how rare of a teammate Horford was. And now that they've reunited in Boston, he appreciates Horford’s presence even more.
“What he brings to the team every day, just coming in and bringing everyone together off the court, on the court … there’s not a lot of people doing that in this league,” Schroder said of Horford following practice Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve been seeing it (since) my first year, and he keeps doing it. And to have a great locker room is really, really important in this league, I believe. So we’re in good hands there.”
Beyond their off-court connection, Schroder and Horford also share an on-court bond. Such was evident right off the bat during Boston’s first preseason game against the Orlando Magic Monday night.
The veteran duo checked in together off the bench at TD Garden midway through the first quarter, and it took less than two minutes for Schroder to connect with Horford on an alley-oop dunk off a high pick-and-roll.
“We’ve done it for a few years,” Schroder said of their connection. “Our chemistry is still there. In training camp, we had a chance to talk about a few things with where he likes the ball and when he wants to score off the pick-and-roll. We’ve just been working on it and getting better at it each day.”
Horford believes that it’s only a matter of time before Schroder has that type of connection with the rest of their teammates. He also believes that the Celtics are in for a treat acquiring a player of Schroder’s caliber right in the prime of his career.
“He's such a competitor,” Horford said of Schroder, who owns career averages of 14.3 points and 4.7 assists per game. “He plays so hard. That's why I feel like people here are going to like him a lot. He's just a great teammate, a great competitor. He gets after it. He's a veteran. He's a vet point guard, so he understands what to do and the places he needs to be. He's just reading the game out there. It's easier when you play with a guy like that."
And in Schroder’s mind, the game is made easier when you share a locker room with a guy like Horford.
“It’s just great to be in the same locker room as him every day,” Schroder said. “Just to see him – his leadership, his mentality in practice, keeping everybody together. That’s what I loved about him my first few years, and still to this day.”
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