Celtics

Al Horford on playing his former Celtics teammates: 'It's going to be weird for me'

Al Horford on playing his former Celtics teammates: 'It's going to be weird for me'

Al Horford spent the last three seasons of his career with the Boston Celtics, and as he prepares to face off against them as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, he admitted it will be weird to go up against his former team. 

After a season where the typically overachieving Celtics fell disastrously short of expectations, Horford opted out of his contract with Boston to enter the free-agent market. A reported 'mystery team' was offering him far more money than the Celtics were comfortable with given the near-guarantee of Kyrie Irving's departure at the time.

That team turned out to be the Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics' biggest rival in the Eastern Conference and a team in which Horford gave fits due to his ability to shut down Joel Embiid on both ends of the floor. The Celtics tried to pull off a miraculous three-team sign-and-trade to secure both Horford and Kemba Walker, but the veteran big man put an end to that by agreeing to a four-year, $97 million contract with Philly the night of June 30. 

The Celtics and Sixers will open their seasons in Philadelphia, so Horford's return to Boston and his reunion with the TD Garden faithful will have to wait. But it'll still feel incredibly weird to see Horford in a Sixers uniform, setting up Embiid for baskets instead of turning him away from them. 

The Celtics, meanwhile, will have to figure out a way to counteract Philly's size in the frontcourt if they have any chance of beating such a talented Sixers team this upcoming Wednesday. 

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Kemba Walker stays ready, even in blowouts, when it matters for the Celtics

Kemba Walker stays ready, even in blowouts, when it matters for the Celtics

BOSTON -- Kemba Walker had every reason to think that his night was over going into the fourth quarter. 

Boston had a commanding lead against a Cleveland Cavaliers squad that’s considered one of the worst teams in the NBA. 

But as the game got a little too close for head coach Brad Stevens’ comfort, he turned to Walker.

And Walker responded with a barrage of 3-pointers that left the Cavs as nothing more than collateral damage in the wake of Boston’s 110-88 win. 

Walker finished with a game-high 22 points which included a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that put the Cavs (5-18) away for good. 

Boston led by as many as 29 points in the second half, only to see that lead down to as little as 14 points in the fourth with seven minutes to play. 

That’s when he called on Walker who came up with one big shot after another. 

And the way Walker responded in the fourth quarter when called upon by Stevens was a reminder of just how important it has become for the best players to be locked in from the opening tip-off to the final horn - even when victory seems all but a given. 

Said Stevens: “I just told the team afterwards, ‘If you want to be special then model after Kemba because Kemba sits over there thinks his night’s done, gets put back into the game, drills three 3’s and ends it.

Stevens added, “Special is not for everybody.”

Having spent his first eight seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, Walker knows exactly what the Cavs were thinking as they steadily chipped away at Boston’s lead.

Understanding the mindset of a team and players on the comeback trail has helped Walker appreciate and embrace the need to always stay on top of his game and ready to go - even when victory seems all but a given. 

Walker understands how a player can lose focus on the game and become relaxed down the stretch in what appears to be a blowout in the making. 

“It’s possible,” Walker says before adding, “But at the end of the day you have to stay engaged through the whole game. You just never know. In this league, 20-point leads go so fast. Teams can score in bunches really fast. You have to stay engaged.”

Which is exactly what he did. 

That not only helped Boston get the victory on Monday, but also served as a great example for the team’s younger players on how to handle themselves when things get sidetracked after going just the way they want them to for most of the game. 

“He set a great example, what he’s done in this league for a very long time,” Tatum said. “That’s why he’s one of the best players in the league.”

And a leader on this team. 

“As one of the leaders I feel I have to stay engaged,” Walker said. “Just like … you never know what to expect.  This league, guys can score so fast and easy. You just never know when teams will come back. It can get a little nerve-racking and Brad felt he had to put me back in. I knew once I got in there, I had to be more aggressive, look for my shot a little more and that’s what I did.”

Blakely's Takeaways: C's home dominance keying hot start>>>

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Jaylen Brown on Grant Williams' 3-point woes: 'We were calling him Ben Simmons'

Jaylen Brown on Grant Williams' 3-point woes: 'We were calling him Ben Simmons'

After an 0-for-25 streak to begin his NBA career, Grant Williams finally hit his first 3-pointer on Monday night.

The Boston Celtics rookie has taken his struggles in stride and laughed off nicknames given to him by his teammates throughout the cold spell. The funniest nickname of all, though, was revealed by Jaylen Brown after Monday's win over the Cavaliers.

Blakely's Takeaways: C's home dominance keying hot start

"Yeah, we were calling him Ben Simmons," Brown said.

Hilarious.

Simmons' 3-point shooting woes are well-documented. The Philadelphia 76ers star has only attempted 21 3s in his three-year career and made two of them (2-for-4 this season). So comparing Williams to him definitely was a low blow, but maybe that's the motivation the 21-year-old needed to drain the first of his career and get on a hot streak.

The C's will take on the 76ers at TD Garden on Thursday, so all eyes are sure to be on both Williams and Simmons whenever the young guns are open behind the 3-point line.

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.