Celtics Veteran Making a ‘Huge Case’ for Starting Job

Getty Images Al Horford #42 of the Celtics poses for a photo during Media Day at High Output Studios

Boston Celtics veteran Al Horford has started in a lot of NBA games throughout his 14-year career.

993 games, including postseason appearances, to be exact, per Basketball-Reference. In fact, Horford has only come off the bench during 10 regular-season games, and twice throughout 124 playoff games.

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Now, Al could be reprising a starting role for the 2021-22 Celtics, according to head coach Ime Udoka, who gushed over the 35-year-old three days into training camp.

“It’s noticeable,” Udoka said after Thursday’s session. “Whether he found the fountain of youth or it’s just the time off that he got not playing all the games last year in Oklahoma City, I mentioned having him in Philadelphia where he sat out some games here and there. But, for the most part, he’s come back in shape.”

For Al Horford, ‘Fountain of Youth’ Started in OKC

For Horford, it’s the latter, which is a testament of time well-spent.

“It all started from me being in Oklahoma City,” Horford said after training camp on Thursday. “With their training staff, over there and their group; working with them. And then, transitioning to the summer I had a lot of time (laughs) this summer. Usually, when you finish with the playoffs, you’re so tired; you’re depleted. You have to do some things to get back to where you need to. This summer, I was healthy. I was able to get after it in the weight room; conditioning. Start building it on the court like I wanted to.

“Going into this year I just feel really good. I feel as good as I’ve felt probably my NBA career, to be honest.”

Al missed the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

Celtics’ Ime Udoka: ‘Al is Making a Huge Case’

The rejuvenated vet, fresh off the longest break he’s had in years, is slowly convincing his new head coach that he’s a shoo-in for Udoka’s starting lineup.

“We want to look at everything, honestly,” Udoka said when asked about a potential starting lineup. “We feel versatility is an asset for us with the lineups we can start. But a guy like Al is making a huge case, obviously, the way he’s come in and looked and played. The leadership and things he’s brought. I mentioned some of the versatility with what he can do as far as pass the ball, handle it and shoot it; so he’s an asset there but it’s also finding the right balance for our bench, as well.”

Familiarity builds confidence from within, thus why the Celtics got off to an early start, this year by hosting a mini-training camp in early September. Prior to this week’s official start, selected players from this season’s roster trained together, which, according to Horford, helped jumpstart the team’s chemistry, early on.

“When we started on Tuesday, it was just back to business,” Horford said. “It feels like everybody is familiar with one another. With that being said, we’ll continue to build it out and we’ll find out a little more about everything once we get out there and play, a little bit, on Monday. But, so far, I’ve been impressed with how consistent everybody has been and how comfortable everybody is.”


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