Almost exactly one year ago, newly-appointed Boston Celtics president Brad Stevens made his first move as a front office executive: Bringing Al Horford home.
The C's sent point guard Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for the veteran big man, who also played for Boston from 2016-19. Uncertainty surrounded the deal at the time due to Horford's age -- he turned 35 the following day -- but the decision helped the Celtics get over the hump and reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
From the day he returned to Boston in the trade, Horford knew this group had what it took to compete for an NBA title.
"Once the trade happened here and everything, I texted with Jayson (Tatum) a few times and I told him that I was looking forward for us to be in the position this coming season," Horford said on Wednesday. "And I really believed that. When I shared that with him, I looked at our group, I saw the potential there. I already played with these guys before, I know what they're about, and I just knew that if we got it together that we were gonna have an opportunity, we were gonna have a chance.
"It's something that I believed from the beginning and we just stayed at it, just continued to work. And obviously, in the season you're not going to be talking about these things, but we talked about it before the season. I strongly believed then, and then throughout we just kept at it, highs and lows, just continued to work, continued to stay solid. It doesn't surprise me. I'm really happy, really grateful to be at this point with this group."
Horford averaged 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.3 blocks through 69 games this season. He's averaged 11.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 17 games in the 2022 playoffs.
He'll be an important piece for the Celtics as they battle the Golden State Warriors for their first championship since 2008. When he takes the court Thursday night for Game 1, he'll officially make the first Finals appearance of his career. His 141 postseason games played without a Finals berth is an NBA record.
Game 1 is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET Thursday at Chase Center. Tune in to NBC Sports Boston at 7:30 p.m. for Celtics Pregame Live.