Al Horford has been ‘phenomenal’ for the Celtics after his illustrious career

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SAN FRANCISCO – Al Horford isn’t releasing much of the emotion it seems. That’s his style for 15 NBA seasons. The type of player who is calm, does your job.

However, his fellow Boston Celtics were thrilled that Horford finally made it to the NBA Finals after reaching his third conference final before.

“No one deserves more than the guy to my right, man,” Jaylen Brown said after the Celtics beat Miami in Game 7 of the Eastern Finals. “The energy, the attitude, coming every day, being a professional, taking care of the body, being a leader, I’m proud to share this time with veterans, mentors, brothers, people like Al Horford, people. He’s been really good all season, really all my career. I’m happy to be able to share this time with someone like her.

The superlative procession continued as the Celtics arrived in San Francisco for the Final.

“We’re very happy with him,” Marcus Smart said. “Al is OG, mas. He works. “

Every player respects making the Final, but you know how many players are respected and honored when their teammates are more interested in them than themselves.

That’s Al Horford for the Celtics. And of course, Horford appreciated the track to the Finals.

“Just thank you for this opportunity,” he said. “It’s just going out and playing basketball at the end of the day. It’s just what it is.” God has put me in this position, and it’s something that I embrace and I’m excited about. Just excited to be able to share this stage with this group of people. We have a lot of really nice people here, guys who already know what they’re going to do.

“It’s just fun to see it all come together.”

Boston Celtics center Al Horford spoke with the team during the second half of Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors.

Boston Celtics center Al Horford spoke with the team during the second half of Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors.

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While Horford was the main reason the Celtics won Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, 120-108, praise from his friends continued.

Horford scored the team’s top 26 points, including 11 in the deciding fourth quarter, and he made 9-of-12 shots from the field and went 6-for-8 with a 3-pointer. Two of the 3s came when a 24-11 Celtics run that turned the 92-85 Warriors lead into a 109-103 Celtics advantage.

“Phenomenal,” Brown said. “This is what is needed. That’s what it’s all about. We want these veteran leaders to bring us. Al has a bunch of good looks. We are encouraged to continue taking them. He came out of the first Final game and played really well. He led us and led us to victory.

A year ago, Horford, who celebrated his 36th birthday on Friday, was stuck in Oklahoma City, sent before the start of the 2020-21 season to the Thunder from Philadelphia, where Horford did not match. But he was not part of the Thunder’s plan. He played in just 28 games and was inactive in the team’s last 28 games.

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Celtics and basketball operations president Brad Stevens have plans to revive Horford’s career. He played for Boston from 2016-17 to 2018-19. Boston got back Horford in a trade with the Thunder.

“When I got the call from Brad, it was really, really exciting,” Horford said. “We were all just screaming in the car, so excited, so thankful. Right away, we just made plans to go back to Boston, do the physical, do all this.

“It was a fun time for my family at the time. Especially for me because it was where I wanted to be.

Horford with his family visited his mother in Atlanta while learning about the trade. “I’ve played with these guys before,” he said. “I know about why. I just know, you know, if we get together, we’re going to have a chance, we’re going to have a chance. It’s something that I believed in from the beginning.

The Celtics didn’t just help him. She needed him to do it, and he did it. Horford averaged 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 46.7% shots from the field and 33.6% on 3-pointers. But Horford is a player whose value cannot be measured in traditional statistics. The impact, especially on defense, is even greater. He can take 3s, court space, pass and defend guards, forward and center.

In the postseason, the Celtics scored 113.8 points and allowed 103.2 points per 100 innings. The plus-10.7 net rating is higher than Jayson Tatum, Brown and Smart. He brought a smart, old -fashioned game – none of which was fun – to the Celtics and was the main reason why he limited Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler in the Eastern playoffs.

“It’s amazing what he’s done all season,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Like I said, he came to training camp in great shape, on his shoulders, proud, wanting to go back to Boston. ‘His leadership isn’t spoken. He’s a vocal guy but he does a lot by example, and I think everyone has a relationship with him.

This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: Al Horford has been a key part of the Boston Celtics running to the NBA Finals