The Boston Celtics are in dire need of help and consistency.
Sitting smack middle of the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are in a state of flux. Stuck somewhere between mediocrity and unfulfilled potential, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens needs someone new he can rely on; someone he can really trust.
For three seasons, Oklahoma City Thunder veteran big man Al Horford was a cornerstone figure for Stevens. Averaging 13.5 points while shooting at a 49.8% clip from the floor to go with his 7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game, he anchored the Celtics’ defense, could shoot from the perimeter, score in the paint, and distribute.
Highlighted by his All-Star season in 2018, when he helped guide the Celtics to back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference finals, Horford proved to be an important piece to Boston’s plans of returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. And now that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will attempt to make a move or two, that could drastically increase Boston’s chances of transforming into a championship contender, maybe it’s in his best interest to take a serious look at Horford.
Chris Mannix On Al Horford’s Potential Return To Celtics: ‘I Would Take Him Back In A Heartbeat’
According to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, Big Al would help Boston in a big way. Mannix, who joined NBC Sports Boston’s Early Edition Wednesday night, says due to Horford’s consistent production and his familiarity with Stevens as a coach, makes this potential Celtics reunion, a no-brainer.
“It’s no surprise to me that Al Horford goes to Oklahoma City, which has a history of putting players like Horford in good positions, and he has turned into something more resembling the Al Horford we saw for many years in Boston,” Mannix said Wednesday on NBC Sports Boston’s Early Edition. “We know he fits in Brad Stevens’ system, he can play the 5, he can play a little bit of 4, he can shoot the 3 which he’s done a lot better this year than he did in Philadelphia.
“And let’s not forget the Celtics, they wanted Al Horford to come back. They just didn’t want to pay him four years, $100-plus million the Sixers were offering. Now he’s got two-and-a-half years left on his contract, around $70ish million total on that deal. I would take him back in a heartbeat.”
Although Horford, who was a free agent in 2019, picked the Sixers over the Celtics, Mannix doesn’t think it’ll come in the way of, what would be, a stunning reunion in Boston.
“I understand there were some raw dealings where Al Horford left,” Mannix added. “Not just that he left, but that he went to a chief rival in Philadelphia. But if you can let bygones be bygones, I think Al Horford could make a difference on this team.”
Does ‘Big Al’ Still Got It?
In Philly, last season, Horford turned in arguably the worst shooting season of his career. Averaging 11.9 points and shooting at a 35% clip from behind the 3-point arc, many wondered if Al, 33-years-old at the time, had reached the twilight of his career.
For the Sixers, it didn’t matter anymore. Under new management — new 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and a new head coach in Doc Rivers — Horford was on his way to Oklahoma City.
One season into his four-year, $109 million deal, Horford, along with two second-round draft picks and a 2025 first-round pick, was traded to the Thunder in exchange for Danny Green, Terrance Furguson, and Vincent Poirier. In 19 games this season, Horford’s production is reminiscent of his All-Star days in Boston.
He’s averaging 14.7 points a game while shooting over 45% from the floor, and for the first time since 2017-18, is close to shooting just over 40% from deep.