by Matt Rooney
The 2018-19 Boston Celtics are absolutely loaded. They have two future stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum – Tatum may already be there. They have Kyrie Irving, a superstar closer who hit the shot that dethroned the Warriors back in ’16. They have selfless All Stars in Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. Finally, they have bench pieces in Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier that would start on most teams in the league. They have talent on talent on talent, but one player’s importance stands out. If others get hurt, we have player’s who can step in and pick up the slack, but if this guy goes down, the Celtics have no shot at taking down the monster out in the Bay Area. This guy is Al Horford.
Al Horford can do it all – defend, rebound, pass, score. He can run the offense, post up down low or stretch the floor. He can switch on to wings or bang with big men down low (ask Joel Embiid how that goes). He’s extremely professional and is a prominent leader. When I say Al Horford can do it all, I seriously mean he can do it ALL.
Horford doesn’t get the respect he deserves from the fans. When he was signed to a max contract in July 2016, (the first big free agent to choose Boston in a LONG time) there were massive expectations thrust onto Horford. People expect a player who has signed a max contract to go for 20+ each night, and make multiple highlight plays, all while lighting up the box score. Many fans and media members talk about how “Average Al” isn’t worth his contract, and isn’t an All Star BLAH BLAH BLAH. These people don’t appreciate all the little things he does, and how important he is to winning. (F**k you Felger.)
Although he’s not fully appreciated by fans, the former Florida Gator is raved about throughout NBA circles.
“As good as Kyrie [Irving] is offensively, it’s almost like Horford is the sort of the hub of everything they do,” said 76ers guard JJ Reddick, “and because [Horford is] so versatile, it creates all sorts of issues.”
Horford is a crucial member of the Celtics and is recognized by his fellow members in the organization:
“It doesn’t surprise me at all [that everyone raves about Horford],” said Jaylen Brown. “The way Al handles himself, both on the court and off, it’s clean-cut, professional and high class.”
“We needed a guy like Al,” said Danny Ainge. “We needed a veteran for our young guys. We needed a guy who only cared about winning. That was a huge moment for our franchise.”
Horford’s stat line doesn’t exactly scream “All-Star” but he averaged 13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and a career-best 5.3 assists last season. Doing this all while shooting 43% from deep and anchoring the league’s top ranked defense shows just how vital Al Horford is to the Celtics’ success. The epitome of a “team first player”, he is the one player the Boston Celtics cannot go without.
Say hello to your 2019 NBA Finals MVP, Al Horford.