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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Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers live stream: How to watch NBA game online

Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers live stream: How to watch NBA game online

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers meet Thursday night for the first time since opening night and they have the added drama of Al Horford, who spent three years with the Celtics, returning to the Hub in an enemy uniform.

The two rivals again are vying for supremacy in the NBA's Eastern Conference, with the Celtics owning the third spot in the East at 17-6 and the Sixers currently fourth at 18-7. The C's will be out to avenge their opening night loss in Philly, which was the last time they saw old friend Horford, who makes his return to Boston after leaving as a free agent to join the longtime rivals in the City of Brotherly Love. 

Horford's departure was not without a little controversy. He spent three seasons with the Celtics, then declined his $30 million option for 2019-20 to become a free agent, but was expected to re-sign with Boston, only to take the more lucrative four-year, $109 million deal from Philly that he was rumored to have secured before the official start of free agency July 1. 

It will be interesting to see the reception the big man gets in his TD Garden return.

Be sure to tune into NBC Sports Boston for Celtics Pregame Live at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the game at 8 p.m. ET or stream it via the MyTeams app. 

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BEFORE THE GAME: At 7 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Mike Gorman, Tommy Heinsohn, Brian Scalabrine, A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Forsberg, and Abby Chin. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Jaylen Brown: Al Horford 'should be celebrated' in his return to Boston with 76ers

Jaylen Brown: Al Horford 'should be celebrated' in his return to Boston with 76ers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jaylen Brown has been around the Celtics fan base long enough to know that they can be hard on former C's who return with their new teams. 

Or in the case of Kyrie Irving, whose new team (the Brooklyn Nets) showed up to the TD Garden while he stayed in Brooklyn because of a shoulder injury, Celtics fans will boo the hell out of you even if you're not in the building.

Brown has no idea how they are going to react to ex-Celtic Al Horford returning for the first time with the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. 

Still, he has a pretty good idea of what that moment will be like for him when Horford is introduced with the Philly starters. 

“He should be celebrated,” Brown said. “Boston fans, they're gonna do what they want, right? Al came here, contributed, took this team the farthest it’s been since ‘08 [NBA champions]. Al served his time well here."

Brown added, “For me, he was a great leader, a great person… I know I’ll clap for him when they call his name. That’s just me.”

In his three seasons with the Celtics, Boston won 63.8 percent of their games with Horford on the roster in addition to advancing to the playoffs each season, which included consecutive trips (2017 and 2018) to the Eastern Conference finals. 

MORE ON HORFORD'S RETURN IN THE CELTICS TALK PODCAST, LISTEN HERE:

In 208 regular-season games with the Celtics, Horford averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists. 

Semi Ojeleye echoed similar sentiments about Horford. 

“Just a great guy, a great man, a great leader,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston earlier. “All of us young guys who are still here, we learned a lot from our time around Al.”

Still, Brown added, don’t get it twisted. 

He and his teammates from last season have lots of love for Al, before and after the game. 

But when the ball goes up and the game starts? That’s another matter entirely. 

“Every time I see Al, that’s my guy,” Brown said. “I’m looking forward to it, say hello before the game. But while we on the court… don’t talk to me.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.