Al Horford was thrust into the starting lineup for the first time this season in last night’s win against the Brooklyn Nets, and he made the most of his opportunity with a strong across-the-board performance.
Derrick White missed the game due to personal reasons (rumor has it, the birth of his second child), and Horford started as he has for almost the entirety of his 17-year NBA career. He made the most of it.
Al’s statline was modest — 8 points on 4-7 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block — but in his 30 minutes of action, his impact was undeniable.
Shout-out to Al Horford ☘️— Tomek Kordylewski (@Timi_093) November 5, 2023
His first start of the season, and he was great against the Nets.
He got 8 points, 7 boards, 3 assists, one steal and one block: pic.twitter.com/fN0jlxlg9U
Horford finished the game with a team-high +29, substantially higher than any other player in the game. He had two putback layups in the first half, and capped off his performance by converting on an alley-oop from Jaylen Brown, a reminder that even at the tail-end of his career, he maintains a level of athleticism that has allowed him to continue producing at the highest level. He received a technical foul for briefly hanging on the rim, a light-hearted moment that was ultimately meaningless given the fact that the win was already secured.
they really gave Al a tech for this pic.twitter.com/SntWi8ahE9— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) November 5, 2023
Jayson Tatum praised Horford for his energy and hustle after the victory. “You’ve got a guy like Al sprinting back in transition and getting that steal in front of our bench, that might not show up on the highlight reel, but that’s just a snowball effect. It’s contagious.”
There’s been some speculation about whether Horford accepted his reduced role, given that he’s expressed in the past that he prefers to start and has done so for the entirety of his NBA career.
On Friday night, Al’s sister, Anna Horford, shared on Twitter that the move to the bench was “a big transition” but that “at the end of the day, he cares about winning & I think he’ll do whatever he needs to do to make that happen.”
So far, it seems the 37-year-old veteran has taken the bench relegation in stride. “You’re a competitor...and you want to be in certain positions, but for me, I’m trying to impact winning...right now, it’s for me to be in this position,” Horford told CLNS’s Bobby Manning.
Through five appearances so far this season, Horford has played scrappy basketball, diving on the floor for loose balls and providing a burst of energy for the Celtics. His three-point shooting struggles from last year’s playoffs have continued (he’s shooting 25% from three so far this year, albeit in a limited sample), but he’s otherwise been very solid.
While discussions regarding who would be in the starting line-p have dominated media conversations since training camp, teammates have continued to laud Horford for his professionalism and willingness to sacrifice.
Last night was a reminder that when a regular starter has to miss a game, whether for injury or something more exciting, the steady veteran center can seamlessly be reinserted into the lineup.
“I love Al. Like, that’s one of my favorite teammates of all-time,” Tatum said after becoming the youngest Celtic ever to reach 10,000 points. “He’s a big reason for my personal success, for everybody’s success, and the ultimate team guy. And we’re just really lucky to have him.”