Al Horford says he feels ‘really good’ heading into his 15th season

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Al Horford has only played in fewer games than he did last season just once in his career, missing the final 44 games of the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season due to a left pectoral tear. Horford played in just two of the final 33 games last year with the Oklahoma City Thunder as the team wanted to give his minutes to younger players while they looked for a team to deal him to in the offseason.

That decision led him to a return to the Boston Celtics, where he is set to play in his fourth season with the organization. He told reporters Thursday that he’s feeling “really good” right now.

Horford has played in the playoffs in every year of his career, except for 2014 when he was out with a torn right pectoral, so he is used to long seasons. Having the long summer really gave him a chance to shape his preparation for this season how he wanted, he said.

“Usually when you finish with the playoffs you’re so tired, you’re depleted, you got to do some things to kind of get back to where you need to,” Horford said. “This summer, I was healthy. I was able to get after it in the weight room, conditioning, start building it on the core like I wanted to. So, I’m going into this year I just feel really good. I feel as good as I’ve felt probably my NBA career, to be honest.”

Ime Udoka says Horford looks fresh

Celtics head coach Ime Udoka echoed that sentiment Thursday. He said that Horford looks noticeably fresher this year.

He looks lively, fresh and looks rejuvenated, so we’re loving what we’re seeing from him,” head coach Ime Udoka said on the 35-year-old big man.

Udoka previously coached Horford in their year together with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019-20. He said that they could have used Horford to take advantage of mismatches created by playing next to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons more than they did. It’s something they want to do in Boston this year.

Horford looking to be more vocal this year

Horford told reporters on media day that he is looking to be more vocal this season, after leading more by example in seasons past.

“Just saying what I see and, speaking to the guys when I need to and kind of stepping in and doing more of that,” Horford said. “In the past, sometimes you kind of get focused on yourself and or I would just kind of lead by example type of thing.”

Guard Josh Richardson played with Horford in that 2019-20 season with the Sixers as well. What he said on the big man falls in line with that assessment of Horford’s leadership style.

“He does the right things day-in and day-out and might not be something like super loud, outrageous that you see,” Richardson said. “He’s always going to be there and he’s always going to be getting his work in and going about his business.”

Either way he leads, Horford will be able to impact the younger guys on the team. Especially after seeing how the Thunder focused on building the project last season.

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