Al Horford Addresses the Sixers Before Celtics Matchup
CAMDEN, NJ (973espn.com) — A season-opening matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics holds a lot of weight between players on each side heading into Wednesday night. However, this game might mean a little bit more for Sixers' newly acquired starting power forward, Al Horford, for obvious reasons.
For the last three seasons, Horford has suited up in Celtics green as one of their key players within the starting lineup. For that three-year span, Horford has been a pain for the Sixers — especially for their star center, Joel Embiid. Typically, that would be the matchup to watch on a night like Wednesday as the Sixers open up the season by hosting the Celtics.
That's not the case this time around, though. As opposed to playing against Embiid, Horford will play beside him against the Celtics as a power forward. While the relationship between Horford, Embiid, and the rest of the Sixers' starting lineup hasn't been perfected, the chemistry has been undoubtedly building up this past month.
“Everyday it’s growing, our relationship," Horford said in regards to his on-court friendship with Joel Embiid on Tuesday. "We’re starting to develop that chemistry. Really, I’m here to help him and to see how good we can be — but he’s doing great. I know he’s excited to get it going tomorrow, and I’m excited to play alongside him."
While Horford is excited to wear his new threads during the regular season for the first time this week, the veteran forward already imagines the moment he steps foot on the court as an opponent of the Celtics will be "surreal."
"I’m put in a weird position here," Horford says as the team anticipates the Celtics visiting. "I would’ve never imagined being in this position. For me, it’s a great challenge ahead being here and trying to accomplish something special."
To prepare for the start of the season, Sixers head coach Brett Brown figured Al Horford could help lead the team with his expertise on Boston this week. "It’s interesting talking to Al [Horford], about some of the things, whether it’s offensively or defensively, you know thoughts that he has [in regards to the Celtics]," Brown says after Tuesday's practice.
"I asked him to share with the team everything that we talked about. It’s a great way to introduce the season." After being asked to lead the charge for the Sixers' first pregame meeting of the season this week, Horford just wanted to make sure that everybody understands what's at stake, and how to go about the matchup.
"I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page," Horford says. "All the guys know the magnitude of the game, the rivalry, and everything. I’m new on this side, obviously, now [laughs]. But just really, I’m making sure we’re all on the same page [and know] the things we need to do to just come out there and compete tomorrow. It’s going to be a fun game.”
Having the Celtics as his first opponent could be a difficult situation to overcome, but Horford believes it's better to get that awkwardness out of the way early on. Admittedly, Horford did think about the matchup being "weird," but at this point, he's more eager than nervous. "I’m just excited to get the season started.”