After banging around with Joel Embiid and Bam Adebayo in two Celtics wins, Al Horford will get the night off in Orlando. The official designation is “back stiffness” for the 36-year-old, but for those of us in that age bracket, that just reads “old.”
On Friday, Horford spoke about his future availability and his mindset about potentially missing games in the regular season:
“I kind of prepared myself to be in this position and I’ll just take it as it goes,” Horford said. “The good thing about our group is that we do have depth, we have a good group and I’m not saying I’m completely opposed to sitting out, but I’ll be fine and I’ll be good to go. I’m being consistent, I’m getting after it. I feel good. I’m being able to get out there and play and doing the things I need to do. It’s all about preparation. It’s a mindset.”
The veteran and the team’s medical staff have a plan in place to keep Horford fresh for the playoffs and for tonight, that means Horford sits against a fairly large Orlando front court of 6’10 Franz Wagner, 6’10 Paolo Banchero, and 6’11 Wendell Carter Jr.
After logging 23 minutes against Embiid in the season opener, Horford went longer in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami. Against the quicker, springier Adebayo, he stretched out for 34 minutes, tallying 9 points (all on 3’s) and 5 rebounds. He hasn’t missed a beat since finding the fountain of youth last year when he averaged 28 minutes in 69 games.
It’s undetermined who will start in Horford’s place, but all signs point to journeyman and hometown kid, Noah Vonleh. Vonleh has been the first big off the bench in the first two games this season. He’s added a voracious rebounding energy to the second unit; in what has become a staple of his game, he’s grabbed more boards (7) than scored points (6). This could also be the first time we see Luke Kornet. An ankle injury kept him out of a majority of training camp and all preseason games after appearing in many early end-of-practice lineups.