Al Horford

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Horford, Stoudamire

Coming off another poor shooting night, Jayson Tatum understands that he needs to improve for the Celtics to win the NBA title, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Tatum was 8-of-23 in the Game 4 loss and is shooting just 34% in the Finals.

“I give [the Warriors] credit,” he said. “They’re a great team. They’re playing well. They got a game plan, things like that. But it’s on me. I got to be better. I know I’m impacting the game in other ways, but I got to be more efficient, shoot the ball better, finish at the rim better. I take accountability for that.”

Tatum has been more effective as a passer than a shooter in the series, but Bontemps points out that he has 22 assists and four turnovers in Boston’s two wins, with nine assists and 10 turnovers in the two losses. Coach Ime Udoka believes Tatum is too focused on drawing fouls rather than trying to make his shots when there’s contact.

“At times he’s looking for fouls,” Udoka said. “They are a team that loads up in certain games. He’s finding the outlets. Shooting over two, three guys. That’s the balance of being aggressive and picking your spots and doing what he’s done in previous games, which is kicked it out and got wide-open looks. That’s the ongoing theme, so to speak. Him getting to the basket, being a scorer as well as a playmaker. They do a good job with their rotations. Sometimes hunting fouls instead of going to finish. I’ve seen that in a few games so far.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Boston has been mentioned in trade rumors involving numerous stars in recent years, but most of those deals fell through and the Celtics were forced to build through the draft rather than trying to form a super team, notes Sopan Deb of The New York Times. As a result, they have a young roster that looks like it can be a title contender for a long time.
  • At 36, Al Horford has adopted an elder statesman role and he’s excited to see his younger teammates succeed, per Tania Ganguli of The New York Times. “They’re different, they’ve grown, they’re much better,” Horford said. “This is kind of their team. This is kind of their time, you know? And I’m just happy to be a part of it now.”
  • Celtics assistant coach Damon Stoudamire wants the team to take inspiration from a tough loss he had with the Trail Blazers 22 years ago, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Portland led the Lakers by 13 points in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the conference finals, but the game slipped away and Stoudamire never reached the NBA Finals as a player. “This group will never get this moment back,” he said of the current Celtics team. “That’s the way I look at it. But if we win together, we’ll be entrenched together. Our group texts now as a staff, as a team, it’ll be the group texts forever. We’ll share moments as a family because we won together. That, to me, is what this is all about.”

Celtics Notes: Williams, Tatum, Brown, Horford

Celtics big man Robert Williams is battling a knee injury that has sidelined him for several playoff games and limited his effectiveness in others, but head coach Ime Udoka has maintained a desire to use Williams whenever possible, writes Jay King of The Athletic. As King outlines, the Celtics view Williams as a foundational piece and want him to be “adaptable” to a variety of matchups — the Warriors’ offense presents some unique challenges for him to figure out.

“It’s the NBA Finals and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to win,” Udoka said. “But this is the core group going forward, and to have the confidence to be able to figure it out with him is going to be big going forward.”

In Wednesday’s Game 3, Williams was a difference-maker on defense in the second half, registering three steals and a block during one impressive two-minute stretch and helping the Celtics limit Golden State to just 11 fourth-quarter points. The big man said his knee injury is one that would normally require more time off, but the extra days off after Games 1 and 2 have helped him, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I’m just trying to be accountable for my team,” Williams said, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). “We made it this far. I had a discussion with myself about pushing through this, but I’m happy with how it’s going. We’ll worry about the injury at the end of the season. But for now, I’m still fighting.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • As they did repeatedly during the season’s second half and in the first three rounds of the playoffs, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown showed once again on Wednesday why the idea of breaking them up with a trade – a popular topic of speculation in the first half of 2021/22 – is one that shouldn’t come up again, writes Chris Mannix of
  • Tatum said earlier this week that he’s not sure why the debate over whether or not he’s a true superstar has been such a common one over the last couple years, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays. “I’ve seen there’s a huge debate: Is he a superstar or is he not? I want to know where that came from,” Tatum said. “… It’s been a big deal this last year and a half or two years. I see it all the time. There’s always been a question in the back of my head, I wonder who spoke on my behalf or said that or why that was such a big deal.” The Celtics forward added that he’s more concerned about winning a title than determining his individual standing in the NBA: “If you win a championship, they can debate a lot of things. They can’t debate whether or not you’re a champion.”
  • In a separate story for ESPN, Bontemps takes an in-depth look at Al Horford‘s 15-year journey to his first NBA Finals and what the veteran big man means to the Celtics.

Atlantic Notes: Boeheim Brothers, Knicks, Horford, White, Kokoskov

The Knicks recently worked out a pair of brothers — Buddy Boeheim and Jimmy Boeheim — ahead of the NBA draft, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. The Boeheim brothers are the sons of Jim Boeheim, who’s served as head coach at Syracuse since 1976.

“They’re getting an opportunity,” Boeheim said of his sons. “They worked hard all their life. They’ll do workouts and see where they stand in the whole picture. It’s fun for them.

“We’ll see where they can go — anywhere from the NBA to G-League to overseas. Nobody knows. I told them: Just keep your head down, work hard, go through workouts and get on a summer league team and see what happens there.’’

Both Boeheims played for their father at Syracuse last season. Buddy averaged 19.2 points per game on 41% shooting last season, while Jimmy averaged 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest. The Knicks own the No. 11 and No. 42 picks in the draft this year.

Here are some other notes from around the Atlantic:

  • Jayson Tatum praised veteran big man Al Horford for his leadership with the Celtics this season, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweets. Horford is in his 15th NBA campaign. “Al is the best teammate ever, just a consummate professional,” Tatum said. Horford also made the NBA Finals for the first time in his career this year.
  • Celtics guard Derrick White briefly responded to Draymond Green‘s comments following Game 1, as relayed by Brian Robb of Green pointed out that White, Marcus Smart and Horford combined to shoot 15-of-23 from deep in the game and seemed confident it wouldn’t happen again. “I mean, we knew what their game plan was going in, so it’s just up to us to make shots,” White said. “I mean, it is what it is. He said what he said. Just going into Game 2, just have the right mindset and whatever it takes to help us win games.” Green turned out to be right in Game 2, as White, Smart and Horford combined to shoot just 2-of-7 from deep.
  • Brian Lewis of the New York Post explores what Igor Kokoskov could bring to the Nets. Brooklyn is expected to hire Kokoskov, who holds a relationship with Steve Nash and recently coached with Dallas, as an assistant coach.

Celtics Notes: Horford, Udoka, Pop, Road Wins

It took a little convincing, but 36-year-old Celtics big man Al Horford eventually realized he would need to add three-point shooting to his arsenal for a lengthier NBA career, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Haynes writes that former Hawks general manager Rick Sund first suggested the move. Atlanta drafted Horford with the third pick out of Florida in 2007.

As Haynes writes, Horford took just 65 three-point attempts through his first eight NBA seasons. During his 2015/16 season with the Hawks, Horford averaged 3.1 looks per night, converting 34.4% of those. He has never taken fewer than 3.0 three-point attempts in a season since then. His highest conversion rate was 42.9% on 3.1 tries during the 2017/18 season with Boston.

“Rick is the one that told me, ‘Man, you have a really good mid-range. You should start shooting corner threes, that’s going to help extend your career,’” Horford said. “I used to be a banger down low and posting up. He was like, ‘Man, you’re not going to last in this league if you keep playing like that.’ … Rick was right. I think I have gained extra years by adding the 3-point shot.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Celtics head coach Ime Udoka is employing a championship strategy employed by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, for whom he was an assistant coach during consecutive NBA Finals trips, writes Tim Keown of ESPN. Keown notes that Udoka’s calm, tough comportment could stem from lessons learned in San Antonio, where he was also a player. “He coached with the greatest ever to do it in Pop,” Marcus Smart said. “He’s a sponge. Every place he went, he soaked it all in, put it into his game and brought it over here to us.” Prior to his current head coaching stint with the Celtics, Udoka also served under Brett Brown with the Sixers and Steve Nash with the Nets.
  • After starting his career with a 10-day contract on a Lakers team led by Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Ime Udoka eventually carved out an NBA niche as a role player. Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times opines that Udoka’s time spent as a career role player helped prepare him for the nuances of coaching. After his four-game tenure with the 2003/04 Lakers, Udoka suited up for the Knicks, Trail Blazers, Spurs and Kings during a seven-year NBA career.
  • One reason behind the Celtics’ 2022 postseason success has been their ability to win on the road, writes Sherrod Blakely of Full Court Press. Boston won two away games in each of its three Eastern Conference playoff series, and already has earned a victory at the Chase Center in the NBA Finals. A second straight road victory is certainly on the minds of Boston players. “We’ve got to have that right mindset that this is a big game for us, and we’ve got to go out there and compete and not try to hang our hat on Game 1 but to be a little greedy and go get Game 2,” reserve point guard Derrick White said of the team’s mentality.

Celtics Notes: Brown, Horford, Smart, Williams

After starting off the 2021/22 NBA season with a middling 25-25 record, the Celtics were hardly looking like candidates for a deep postseason run. Now, after consecutive Game 7 wins over Milwaukee and Miami, Boston will face Golden State in the NBA Finals, which begin on Thursday at the Chase Center.

Celtics star swingman Jaylen Brown acknowledged this week that he heard plenty of trade speculation earlier in the year when Boston’s season was looking less promising, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. During the first half of the season, there was outside chatter about whether the Celtics needed to break up Brown and Jayson Tatum.

“That trade talk was loud, and most of it came from Boston fans,” Brown told Haynes. “It’s a city that doesn’t tolerate excuses. But in reality, early in the season we had a new coach, we had a new front office, I missed about 15 games early in the season and that caused us to not be clicking on all cylinders like we wanted to be. People were impatient, so I understand. But fast forward, we got healthy, we got everybody back and now the sky’s the limit.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Veteran Celtics big man Al Horford is expected to have his salary for the 2022/23 NBA season fully guaranteed, regardless of the NBA Finals outcome, sources tell Brian Robb of MassLive. Boston’s Eastern Finals win increased Horford’s partial guarantee from $14.5MM to $19.5MM, while a championship would officially increase it to a full guarantee of $26.5MM. However, given the way he has performed this season – and in the playoffs – it sounds like Horford won’t have to worry about being waived in the offseason, no matter how the forthcoming series plays out.
  • Celtics head coach Ime Udoka has indicated that there is “no concern” about the health of starting point guard and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart heading into the team’s NBA Finals matchup against the Warriors this week, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Smart sat out Games 1 and 4 of Boston’s seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series win against the Heat with a right ankle sprain.
  • The Celtics are savoring their four-day breather in between the Eastern Conference Finals and the NBA Finals on Thursday, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Starting center Robert Williams, who was unavailable for three contests against the Heat due to a left knee bone bruise and played limited minutes in Game 7, looks to be a big beneficiary of break. “Rob’s all right,” Udoka said. “Getting looked at today and will continue to get his treatment and rehab and in order to get swelling down and some of the pain and mobility back. And so it’s going to be an ongoing thing, like I mentioned. He’s day-to-day pretty much throughout the playoffs… [He] should feel better with time in between, especially with these two days off in between games, as opposed to playing every other day.”

Atlantic Notes: Horford, Udoka, Ainge, Raptors

Al Horford, who was languishing with the rebuilding Thunder a year ago, is now headed to the NBA Finals in his second stint with the Celtics and couldn’t be more grateful, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes.

“On the phone, I would look at photos from a year ago, exactly what I was doing at the moment, and today my son actually graduated from kindergarten,” Horford said. “So I remember that we had pictures for him, and I picked him up from school, and we had the cupcakes and we had all this stuff. So it’s like perspective for me, like I always look back and see where I was just day to day. I’m just very grateful to be in this position with these guys.”

Horford, 35, has been a major factor in the Celtics’ run. He is averaging 11.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.5 APG and 1.6 BPG in the postseason. As we noted earlier, Horford now has a $19.5MM guarantee on his $26.5MM contract for next season.

“When he came back, that gave us a sense of security,” Marcus Smart said. “We got Al back there, he’s always going to make the right play on both ends.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ime Udoka was the runner-up for numerous head coaching jobs but is glad that he wound up with the Celtics instead of a rebuilding team, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports“You really want me to tell you? Detroit, Indiana, Cleveland,” Udoka said of the jobs he nearly got. “I can go down the list. That was tough because I believe I was ready. But I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of an organization that’s pushing for winning and championships. You can be in a lot of different situations. There are only 30 teams and I get that, but to not be in a rebuild and being in an expectation pressure-filled situation, I wouldn’t trade that in any day.”
  • In an interview with’s Steve Bulpett, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge offered high praise to the man who replaced him in Boston, former Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Getting Kemba Walker‘s contract off the books was a particularly shrewd move, according to Ainge. “I think that, by moving Kemba, it allowed Marcus, Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum) and Robert Williams to really thrive in positional size, with Horford taking up a big responsibility in the front line for Robert and moving Jaylen, Jayson and Marcus to their positions where they can have size advantages.”
  • Fred VanVleet can re-enter the free agent market with a player option next summer and The Athletic’s John Hollinger believes the Raptors should pursue an extension with him in the range of $25MM annually. Hollinger and Eric Koreen takes a closer look at all the Raptors’ free agent, draft and extension decisions.

Celtics’ Brown, Horford Benefit Financially From ECF Win

A pair of Celtics players benefited financially in a major way as a result of the team’s Game 7 win over Miami on Sunday in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Swingman Jaylen Brown, who previously earned a bonus worth $321,429 for making the Eastern Finals, had that bonus voided and replaced by a bonus worth triple that amount, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, who tweets that Brown will receive $964,286 for making the NBA Finals.

Meanwhile, big man Al Horford didn’t receive a bonus on this year’s salary as a result of Boston’s Eastern Finals victory, but his salary guarantee for next season’s salary has increased. Horford is on the books for $26.5MM in the final year of his contract in 2022/23, but only $14.5MM had been guaranteed. That partial guarantee has increased to $19.5MM now that the Celtics are in the NBA Finals, tweets Marks.

If the Celtics defeat the Warriors and win the NBA Finals, Brown would receive another bonus and Horford’s ’22/23 salary would become fully guaranteed. In that scenario, the Celtics – who are currently $358K below the tax line – would go into the tax as a result of Brown’s final bonus, making them a taxpaying team, tweets Marks.

While the Celtics made an effort at the trade deadline to stay out of tax territory by sending Bol Bol and PJ Dozier to Orlando in a salary-dump deal, it’s safe to assume team ownership would be comfortable paying a very modest tax bill in exchange for a title. The Bucks were in a similar situation a year ago, when Jrue Holiday‘s championship bonus pushed their team salary over the tax line.

Celtics’ Al Horford Available For Game 2

1:56pm: Horford has cleared the health and safety protocols and is now listed as available for Game 2, the Celtics announced in a tweet.

12:09pm: Celtics big man Al Horford has been upgraded to questionable after previously being listed as doubtful for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat, Boston announced (via Twitter).

Horford entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday, causing him to miss Game 1’s loss to Miami. Head coach Ime Udoka told reporters, including Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link), that Horford didn’t feel sick when he evidently tested positive for COVID-19.

He’s feeling fine, he’s feeling ok since that day. Just tests and protocols he has to pass,” Udoka said.

If Horford registered a positive COVID-19 test, he would have to remain in the protocols for at least five days unless he records two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. Considering he was upgraded to questionable, it seems like he may have returned at least one negative result.

The 35-year-old had a nice season for Boston, averaging 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.3 blocks on .467/.336/.842 shooting in 69 regular season games. He’s upped those averages in the postseason, averaging 13 points, 9.4 boards, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks on .524/.451/.833 shooting in 11 games.

Game 2 of the ECF takes place tonight in Miami at 7:30 pm CT. If Horford tests out of the protocols, he figures to return to the starting lineup and provide much-needed frontcourt depth to the Celtics, who trail the series 1-0.

Lowry Out For Game 2; Smart Probable, Horford Doubtful

The Heat and Celtics have released their latest injury updates (Twitter links) for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup on Thursday. Miami’s Kyle Lowry (hamstring) remains out for Game 2, but Boston’s Marcus Smart (right mid-foot sprain) has been upgraded to probable after both players missed Game 1.

In addition to Smart, Al Horford (health and safety protocols) is listed as doubtful for Boston, while little-used backup Sam Hauser (right shoulder) is out.

For Miami, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent are both listed as questionable with hamstring issues, but both Heat players have appeared in all 12 postseason games to this point, so it would be surprising if they’re unavailable on Thursday.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported earlier today that Smart was targeting a Game 2 return and that Horford was “highly unlikely” to be available, and Boston’s official designations align with Haynes’ sources.

Strangely, the Heat have gone 7-0 in the playoffs in Lowry’s absence to this point, and lost both games he played against Philadelphia, when he was clearly still hampered by the hamstring strain. Vincent has filled in admirably for the team’s normal starting point guard, and that’s likely to continue.

Miami leads the series 1-0 after a 118-107 victory on Tuesday, led by 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks (plus stellar shooting) from Jimmy Butler. The turning point in the first game was the third quarter, when Miami outscored Boston 39-14, led by Butler’s 17 points.

Celtics Notes: Horford, Smart, Udoka, Tatum

The Celtics aren’t counting on big man Al Horford clearing the NBA’s health and safety protocols in time to return for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Horford entered the COVID-19 protocols just hours ahead of Game 1 on Tuesday. While there’s a chance he could register the negative tests necessary to exit the protocols prior to tip-off on Thursday, Haynes classifies those odds as “minuscule,” with sources telling him it’s highly unlikely.

If Horford registered a positive COVID-19 test, he’ll have to remain in the protocols for at least five days unless he records two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. A five-day absence would sideline him for Game 3 as well.

The Celtics missed the presence of Horford and starting point guard Marcus Smart on Tuesday, surrendering 118 points and allowing Miami to shoot nearly 49% from the field in the Game 1 loss.

“Obviously, we weren’t prepared to be without Al,” Jaylen Brown told reporters after the game. “We definitely weren’t prepared to be without Al and Smart. So, it’s not an excuse. We got to be better.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Smart, who was unavailable for Game 1 due to a right mid-foot sprain, is aiming to return on Thursday, according to Haynes. However, his status will hinge on how his foot responds to treatment today and tomorrow.
  • Several Celtics staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 during the last few days, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said during an appearance on Get Up on Wednesday morning (video link). The team also announced that head coach Ime Udoka is dealing with an illness, though it’s said to be a non-COVID ailment (Twitter link via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press).
  • The Celtics don’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft, but last night’s lottery results could still have an indirect impact on the team going forward. Brian Robb of explains how.
  • Christopher L. Gasper of The Boston Globe praises Jayson Tatum‘s growth as a leader this season, but says the star forward will have to show more mental toughness in order for the Celtics to to win their series vs. Miami.