Will Al Horford be as good in his second Boston Celtics stint as he was in his first?
Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens raised that possibility Friday during his appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” show. Stevens revealed Horford, 35, is playing like he did in 2016 when he joined the Celtics for the first time, albeit with one important tweak to his game.
“Al’s looked — before he got sick (with COVID-19), and he’s now back the last couple of days, I don’t know if he’ll play tonight or not – but he’s looked like he was 30,” Stevens said. “He looks the same as when he came in when he was 30.
“He just has a quicker release on his jump shot because he’s shot way more than he did when he was in Atlanta. He’s shot way more in the last five years with Boston, Philly and OKC. So I’m excited that Al’s here to help lead our locker room, which is really important.”
Horford re-joined the Celtics last summer as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Much of the coverage surrounding Horford’s return centers around the positive impact he’s expected to make behind the scenes. However Stevens believes Horford still has plenty to offer on the court and suggests the Celtics might have outlasted the New York Knicks on Wednesday night in their season opener had the veteran center been available to play.
“How immediate will Horford’s impact be? You saw the other night that we had a lot of great performances and a lot of relentlessness and a lot of resilience, and we could have used just a little bit, right? Just a little bit to get over the top,” Stevens said on “Toucher and Rich.” “I don’t think there’s any doubt that Al can help lead that and provide that.”
Horford played just 28 games for the Thunder last season due to injuries and OKC’s youth movement. He told reporters in June he feels great physically, and Stevens seems to back up his assertion.
The Celtics listed Horford as questionable to play Friday night against the Toronto Raptors. Whenever he makes his second Celtics debut, don’t be surprised if he shows that same spark of yesteryear.