Al Horford is ‘Pleased’ with Celtics and Not ‘Skipping Steps’ During Training Camp
It would be easy for Boston to pack it in and prepare to take a step back after the franchise suspended Coach Ime Udoka for the season after he “violated team policies.”
However, Al Horford hasn’t seen any kind of quit in his teammates. Instead, practices have been physical, and their teamwork and chemistry are at the same level as their second-half surge to the Finals. The Celtics are playing the same kind of basketball except for some minor tweaks interim head coach Joe Mazzulla has implemented.
“We have a lot of the same things we had last year,” Horford told The Athletic. “I just think it feels like continuity for us, which is positive.”
Horford is confident that Boston has prepared itself the right way and will seemingly not take any step back from its standing in the Eastern Conference hierarchy. Horford revealed that the Celtics have put together several productive preseason practices and that he’s seen no complacency despite the recent turnover at the head coach position.
Horford also said that Boston doesn’t mention their Finals loss much. They didn’t make it a rallying cry at training camp or a regular theme throughout the preseason. They just plain old have not focus on it, but Horford did say it was brought up and said, “it’s not something we’re not constantly harping on.” Horford also revealed that the Celtics aren’t “skipping steps” and that he’s “pretty pleased” with the “commitment from each of our guys.”
“Not skipping steps,” Horford said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. I’ve been pretty pleased with our training camp, the focus, and the commitment from each of our guys. Guys are putting in the work. We’re not comfortable. I still feel like we have an edge to our group. And I think that’s the biggest thing. Just because we did something doesn’t mean anything coming into the next year. We’re starting fresh, and we have to build this thing back up again.”
The Boston Celtics will likely look to turn to smaller lineups due to Robert Williams‘ knee injury knocking him out of action at the beginning of the regular-season. Although they added Malcolm Brogdon to the lineup, their winning style of smothering their opponents won’t likely be their formula to success. However, Horford believes that Boston can still lean on that same identity that helped them reach the Finals.
“I feel like our identity’s established,” Horford said. “I feel like we know who we are. I think last year, at the beginning of the year and throughout, we were trying to find who we are. Going into this year, we understand who we are and what we’re about. And we’re ready to go. I think the mindset, how engaged, how connected we are on the defensive end really doesn’t matter who is out there. Obviously, we miss Rob (Williams), and we do hope that he gets back. But the way we have to look at it is different guys need to be able to step up and fill in. And it will be a different challenge, but I feel like everybody understands it. And we’re up for what we have coming.”
Horford was complementary of Mazzulla, revealing that Mazzulla wants the Celtics to “play with a little more pace, especially on the offensive end.”
Mazzulla will look to lean on a coaching staff that came together because of their close collective bonds with Udoka. This is why Mazzulla will be holding onto much of what is working with Udoka, excluding the minor tweaks of playing at a quicker pace.
“Right away, I feel like we’re learning a lot off of him, how he’s thinking, how he wants us to play,” Horford said. “He wants us to play with a little more pace, especially on the offensive end. That’s a challenge for our group, but it’s something that we want to continue to do. We want to make sure that we have good ball movement. That’s kind of what I’m seeing, his emphasis with our group. Everything else pretty much is kind of the same thing we had last year. We have a lot of the same assistant coaches, pretty much all the assistant coaches, so we still have everybody here.”
The Celtics will open the season against the Miami Heat on Oct. 18.