BRIGHTON, MA — Change was the theme of the Boston Celtics summer. Trades, signings, and goodbyes stole the headlines, but nestled beneath the chaos is Jordan Walsh, who the Celtics selected with the 38th pick in this year’s draft.
Walsh began his Celtics career with a bang, impressing at Summer League with a flurry of three-point-heavy games and his constant intensity taking center stage. But as the rookie prepares for his time in Boston, he’s looking to his vets to help him adapt.
And in turn, he’s formed a close relationship with Al Horford.
“For sure, Al,” Walsh said when asked who his go-to guy on the team is. “I was talking to him before draft night. I was texting with him, talking about, ‘You know, I think I’m gonna be a Celtic I’m excited to come work out with you.’ To have a guy like him to give me advice– He’s been here for so long, and he’s still at the top of his game, so there is so much to learn from him.”
Horford will be entering his 17th NBA season this year at 37 years old, while Walsh will be embarking on his first at the age of 19. Yet despite their near-20-year difference in age, the two are already becoming quite the duo.
“I was joking with him earlier,” Walsh said with a grin. “We were talking about when he was going to college; I wasn’t born yet. And I was like, ‘Now we’re teammates.’
“So it’s amazing. I’ve talked to him about other stuff. Of course, basketball, but also off-the-court stuff, like ‘What suit should I wear to this gala?’ Stuff like that. So he’s been a mentor for sure.”
The pair’s relationship spawned from Walsh’s bond with former NBA player Charlie Villanueva, who connected with the Celtics rookie from a young age due to their journeys dealing with alopecia.
“[Villanueva said], ‘Yo, he’s probably going to come to Boston. You should probably talk to him, take him under your wing because he’s a good guy,’” Walsh recalled.
While their paths never crossed in the NBA, Horford and Villanueva played together on the Dominican Republic national team in the early 2010s, giving Walsh a direct line to connect with his new Boston teammate.
Jordan Walsh says Al Horford has been his mentor throughout the summer.— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) October 2, 2023
He also likes to joke with Al about their age difference: “We were talking earlier about when he was going to college, I wasn't born yet. And now we're teammates.” pic.twitter.com/fhZcB7NXVU
“I was like, ‘Al Horford? He’s been here for a while,’” Walsh remembered thinking. “‘Getting buckets, playing well. Yeah, I want to learn from him for sure because I want to be doing this when I’m as old as he is for sure.’”
But just because Horford is willing to mentor Walsh doesn’t mean he’s willing to let the rookie’s lack of movie knowledge slide.
“Me and Al were talking about this last night. First, they told me I don’t have my Black card because I didn’t know what Friday was. So I went and watched the first one.”
“Then I watched Boys in the Hood. Then Al told me I needed to watch Godfather 1 and 2. He was like, ‘They’re old, they’re long, but they’re so good.’ And I was like, ‘Okay bro. Whatever you say, Al. I’m going to invest.’ He was like, ‘Once you get that, then you can come talk to me again.’”
Walsh is an NBA player, but he’s still a kid. It was just two years ago that he was playing high school ball, and now he’s in a new city faced with new challenges while his family resides in a completely different part of the country.
Being an NBA player is a lifelong dream that few people get to fulfill, but Walsh still has to face a new chapter of his life without the in-person support of the people who have always been there for him.
That’s where Horford, Jayson Tatum, and the Celtics organization have stepped up.
“They’re kind of navigating me through this process, helping me more off the court than on the court, but still on the court stuff,” said Walsh. “But they’re helping me navigate it well, and they’re being my second family [for] my second home.