Celtics Starter Clarifies Playoff Eligibility in Potential Toronto Series

Al Horford of the Boston Celtics

Getty Al Horford of the Boston Celtics being guarded by OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa of the Toronto Raptors.

Despite the fact that the Boston Celtics only have one regular-season game left, they still don’t know who they will be facing in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Unless the Celtics manage to climb up to the two seed again, which is unlikely, they will face one of two teams – the Chicago Bulls or the Toronto Raptors. But the latter of those two matchups is the one everyone is talking about.

As of January 15, unvaccinated players are ineligible to enter Canada and are thus not allowed to play road games in Toronto. This sparked a question amongst the media and Celtics fans – which players in the Eastern Conference are unvaccinated? While the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat both confirmed to ESPN that they are fully vaccinated, the Philadelphia 76ers and Celtics declined to say.

And while it was eventually revealed that Matisse Thybulle is the unvaccinated player in Philadelphia, Celtics fans were still left questioning if they had to worry about missing guys in a series against the Raptors. Rumors and reports swirled that both Jaylen Brown and Al Horford were the two unvaccinated Celtics, but on April 8, Horford cleared things up on his end.

According to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe, Horford “told the Globe he is fully vaccinated and would be eligible to play in Toronto.”

Why Horford Didn’t Reveal Status Sooner

When asked about his eligibility to play in Toronto in a postgame interview on March 30, Horford stated that he’d “be able to be ready to play wherever.” This implied that he would be allowed to play in Toronto, but the vagueness of the response allowed people’s doubt to linger. However, when he spoke to the Globe, Horford clarified why he didn’t talk about it in the first place.

“It’s something I haven’t wanted to discuss,” Horford explained. “I think with the Celtics, we made it clear we’re not going to discuss those things, and it’s a health matter, and we all respect everybody’s individual perspectives. That’s why I’m not going to get into it and talk about it. But I’m ready to go.”

This is a stance taken on by the entire Celtics organization. In an April 1 interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich, Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens explained their mindset when it comes to talking about vaccination status:

As an organization, we’ve said from day one, we’re not going to comment on our team vaccination status or individual vaccination status. And, as you said, the rules have kind of fluctuated as the year’s gone on. I feel like our job is to make sure that we continue to educate and make sure to keep everybody abreast of those changes, and the NBA has done a great job of that, all across the league.

He continuously declined to comment on the status of his players, and until his conversation with the Globe, Horford never made a direct clarification, either. But with his status now clarified, that leaves only one player in question.

Brown’s Comments on Vaccination Status

Brown has continuously declined to comment on his vaccination status. Dating all the way back to Celtics Media Day on September 27, he has always said that it is a personal decision. Most recently, Brown was asked about his eligibility to play in Toronto during his postgame interview on April 3. Once again, he declined to comment, but also added in some extra reasoning:

“As a vice president of the player’s association, it’s a part of my job description to protect our players’ rights and our medical privacy,” Brown stated. “So you won’t hear me comment on my status or anybody else’s. But that’s how I feel about it.”

At this point, it seems as though Celtics fans will not know whether or not Brown is vaccinated unless they are forced into a playoff series with Toronto. But at the very least, fans can rest a bit easier knowing that Horford will be available.

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