Al Horford embracing the pressure entering 2022-23 Celtics season

Horford embracing the pressure entering new Celtics season originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Al Horford has a lot on his plate heading into the much-anticipated 2022-23 Boston Celtics campaign.

The veteran big man is the elder statesman on a young C's squad led by a 34-year-old interim head coach in Joe Mazzulla. Entering his age 36 season, Horford will be leaned on for his leadership even more than in previous years.

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There is no shortage of adversity in Boston's locker room with less than one month until Opening Night. In an exclusive 1-on-1 with our Chris Forsberg, Horford discussed the need for the team to keep its focus on basketball following the suspension of Ime Udoka.

"Even when I was driving over here, I was just thinking. I'm like, 'Well, all summer you've been waiting on getting to this point, getting to the start of the season. It wasn't like we planned it, but now that we're here we've gotta get to it," he said.

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Horford's presence was a major difference-maker during the Celtics' NBA Finals run. After averaging 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds through 69 regular-season games, the five-time All-Star propelled the C's through the postseason with 12.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

As memorable of a season it was, Horford hopes even better days are ahead.

"Sharing all those moments was very special. It was as (much) fun as I've had since I've been in this league," Horford said. "Now, it's for us to take that other step. So as a group I'm really excited for us to see how we're going to come together and make that happen."

Not only will Horford have to step up as a leader, he'll be counted on to be productive on the court while Robert Williams misses time to begin the season. Williams is expected to be sidelined until late November/early December after undergoing another knee procedure, leaving Horford as one of the only reliable big men on the roster.

He's looking forward to the challenge.

"Is there more pressure on me? Probably. But it's something that I kind of embrace and I'm excited about."

The Celtics will begin their preseason on Sunday vs. the Charlotte Hornets. They'll open the regular season on Oct. 18 vs. the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden.