Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Why Al Horford continues to be a vocal leader for Celtics ahead of series vs. Heat

The Celtics are set to face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals for a second-straight season and a third time over the past four years.

While the team was in a good mood during Tuesday's team practice following Jayson Tatum's historic Game 7 performance to eliminate the Philadelphia 76ers on Mother's Day, it was Al Horford that had to pause shootaround to get his teammates to re-focus -- according to Malcolm Brogdon.
"Practice was light and guys were a little loose and Al brought us together in the middle of practice and just told us to tighten it up," Brogdon said during his post-practice presser. "I think it's those constant reminders from our leader that's going to help us stay poised -- start the series poised, and really locked in."
Boston has had issues staying focused throughout their first two rounds against the Atlanta Hawks (letting that series go to six games) and the Sixers, who escaped with a win at TD Garden in Game 1 and Game 5.

Despite getting past both the Hawks and 76ers (taking longer than expected against both teams) a widely veteran like Horford has been more vocal this postseason, taking on an even bigger leadership role than he has in the past.
"I think he's seen the most, but he's also taken the throne on leading us," Brogdon said. "You know you have a special leader when guys like Jayson Tatum, a top-5 player in the world, guys like Jaylen Brown, another top player in the world, listen to him. They're quiet. They listen to him. They want his feedback. They want his leadership. Al's been that special leader for us all season."
Horford more than anyone understands that the C's can't keep committing some of the same mistakes they did in their two previous series or lose focus against a team like the Heat -- who upset a deep Milwaukee Bucks roster last month.
"That's all the time. [Horford] is always getting on our asses when we need it," Robert Williams said to reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Williams was then asked if there's a difference between the regular season or the playoffs when it comes to Horford's approach.
"He's a bad MF-er either way it goes," Williams said. "I can't really say there's a big difference. He's the O.G., he's bad in the playoffs and in the regular season. Obviously, you can tell his attention to detail is way more focused...his drive to talk to everybody, like make sure everybody's mentally ready for this -- knowing that he's been here before, he's been in hard-fought playoff series."
With the Celtics eager to win a 18th championship as a franchise, Brogdon also noted that the team has a desire to win a title for the five-time All-Star in Horford -- who turns 37 next month.
"That's a huge piece for us," Brogdon said. "Al has given this league so much, he's given this organization so much, these guys so much. I think a big piece of it for us is wanting to see him go out on top with a ring and a championship. Because he's more deserving of it than anybody."
 Game 1 between the Celtics and Heat is scheduled to tip-off tonight at 8:30 ET on TNT

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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