With seven days left until the start of the regular season, many Celtics fans are wondering who will be the starting five for Boston?
Prior to tip off, coach Joe Mazzulla announced he would start newly acquired guard Jrue Holiday over veteran big man Al Horford in tonight’s matchup against the Knicks. Mazzulla opted for a smaller lineup which consisted of Jrue Holiday and Derrick White in the backcourt, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum at the three and four, and Porzingis at the five.
In his 16th NBA season, Horford has been a bonafide starter in all but 10 games. He started 63 games for the Celtics last season, and played several games at the five with injuries to Robert Williams. Throughout training camp, Mazzulla and Brad Stevens have expressed their desire to play guys in multiple roles and at multiple positions.
This might be a hot take, but I don’t believe the exact starting five will essentially matter with the amount of talent in the Celtics top-6. Rotational minutes, and the right combinations will more or less matter depending on the matchup. With several acquisitions made in the last few months, Mazzulla will be challenged putting combinations together. This is especially important, given the C’s are thin at the front court position.
Al Horford hustling out here like it's the playoffs pic.twitter.com/aKsHhzTWAL— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) October 17, 2023
Off the bench, Al Horford showed the same energy as he’s done as a starter. In 23 minutes, Al scored 8 points on 3-of-7 (42.8 percent) field goal shooting, and 2-of-4 (50 percent) from long range.
The veteran big man was also a presence on defense, adding one block and one steal. Hustling as if it was Game 7 of the Finals, Horford sprinted to the sidelines for the possession over Donte DiVincenzo. Playing with poise, the big man looked energized and was making all the plays.
“I thought he did a great job,” Mazzulla said after Boston’s preseason finale in The Garden. “I think Al [Horford] is the kind of guy where it really doesn’t matter what he does, he’s going to be ready to play. He’s going to do what’s best for the team.”
The Celtic’s head coach continued to praise Horford, and knows he can’t take him for “granted.” The leadership and veteran experience Horford brings to this roster will be vital towards another push for Banner 18.
"He seems to be the guy that always makes the right play... we can't take that for granted."— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 18, 2023
Joe Mazzulla talks about Al Horford coming off the bench vs. Knicks
Presented by your New England Ford Dealers pic.twitter.com/V0u2cFF0eh
“We had three clips at halftime and all three were him [Horford],” continued Mazzulla. “The possessions that he had and the energy that he brought. Regardless of who’s starting and who’s not, Al’s a critical piece to our team and our locker room. He seems to be the guy that always makes the right play on both ends of the floor.”
Whether starting or utilized off the bench, Al Horford will help Porzingis and the Celtics space the floor, as well as protect the rim and paint. The Unicorn emphasized that everyone is willing to make the sacrifices to win.
“I think we are all willing to take whatever the situation is going to be,” Porzingis stated. “whoever’s going to start. Whoever, whatever, honestly, I don’t think these guys care. All we care about is winning and playing the right way. We’re going to trust Joe with those kinds of things and the rotations. There’s going to be some nights somebody’s going to rest and the starting five is going to look different, so we’re prepared for it all.”