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Finally wearing Celtics uniform, Al Horford has his new team giddy with anticipation

09.26.16 at 10:46 pm ET
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Al Horford does the rounds at Celtics Media Day. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Al Horford does the rounds at Celtics Media Day. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — All the Celtics of recent memory have heard is that they’re just missing “that” piece. There’s no exact definition of what that piece is, but there is belief that Al Horford is said piece. 

He can run the floor, play defense in the low post, step out and shoot 3-pointers, play strong around the rim and grab rebounds in the process — nearly all things the C’s needed to address this offseason. And while his addition came at the cost of $113 million over four seasons, it appears that if he continues the trend that has defined a successful nine-year career, he will help the Celtics take another step forward.

“He’s going to open the floor for everybody,” said Avery Bradley during the Celtics’ Media Day on Monday. “He’s a great player on the offensive end, defensive end. He knows how to play the game of basketball. To have him be a part of this team, I’m just happy about it.”

Added Celtics president Danny Ainge (who was exceptionally giddy throughout his press conference), “As much as anything he’s been very consistent over his career. Shooting the ball, playing multiple positions. He’s a guy that fits in with our system with big guys handling the ball a lot.”

With the hefty contract he’s signed, and the track record he’s had in his career, the 30-year-old Dominican is being fancied as the shepherd to take the Celtics to the promise land.

And while it may be steep to put that all on Horford — especially on a team-centric squad like the Celtics — his all-around skill should fit into the Celtics’ system.

“We’re not asking Al to be anything more than him,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a good fit for how we play on offense. He’s a good fit for how we play on defense. He’s a professional. He has a routine. He works hard at his craft. He’s a guy that guys can follow by example.”

The decision to come to Boston started even before the free agency period for Horford. In fact, it came well before this season even ended.

“Even though I was with Atlanta last year and we beat the Celtics in the playoffs, I was very impressed with how hard the guys played, and how good the team could be under Coach Stevens,” Horford said. “What I saw, it just really intrigued me.

“In the free agency process — at beginning I would say I was really comfortable with Atlanta. As time went on and I met with the Celtics, it just became real to me. Looking at my career, going into my 10th year, I wanted to be able to be a part of something special and win a championship. And with the type of guys that we have, we have that opportunity.”

Horford noted that the banners hanging amongst the rafters at the TD Garden have always been overwhelming, even since he was a rookie. Tucked away in the corner of the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham, Horford sat along the 17 banners that preceded, while each scoreboard and shot clock illuminated with the number 18.

Leading up to this moment, however, he could tell something was different even during the postseason. While fans nearly booed Dennis Schroeder out of Atlanta for a spat with Isaiah Thomas, the same people were surprisingly benevolent with the arguably then-Hawks’ most valuable player.

That was for a good reason.

“The fans here, they can get pretty intense,” Horford said. “But I did notice that the fans would say, ‘You’re going to be here next year’, things like that. I did notice that people weren’t coming at me like in the past. It’s a very smart fanbase and they were kind of aware of the possibility, so they caught me a break.”

In the meantime, Horford is just going to get going Tuesday, see how he fits in and not try and build Rome in a day.

“We have some great leaders here already,” Horford said. “I want to be able to help our team grow, get acclimated as fast as I can, and just help us be a better team. I want us to grow. I took a chance on coming here, and I believe in the guys we have here, the organization, and the potential that there is here.”

Danny Ainge pays tribute to Paul Pierce: ‘I think Paul could play for a few more years’

09.26.16 at 6:09 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Danny Ainge had the chance to pay tribute to a pair of all-time greats that combined to bring home one title to Boston and nearly another. 

Hours before Monday’s media day in Waltham, 38-year-old Paul Pierce announced that this season would be his last in the NBA after 19 seasons. 

“Well, first of all, I think Paul could play for a few more years, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” the Celtics president of basketball operations said. “Paul loves the game. He loves basketball and I think that it’s hard to see him walking away. I know there will come a time when he will. He’s one of the great Celtics of all-time, he’s a great competitor.

“The thing that stands out more to me than anything about Paul — after all the great shots and great plays and everything else he did here — was just watching him, sitting right outside my office, seeing him come in at midnight and work on his game, work on his conditioning. He really loved the game and took it very seriously.”

Ainge was also asked about Kevin Garnett, who announced his retirement last week. 

“I think I said in a statement that KG had as big an impact as anybody that I’ve been around in an organization,” Ainge said. “I think the thing that stands out the most to me about KG is just his team-first mentality. He never wanted it to be about KG. He never wanted his individual success to trump team success. He lived that in his day-to-day practice, and that’s something that I’ll remember about him.”

Will the numbers 34 and 5 wind up in the rafters? 

“That’s for future discussion,” Ainge said. “I won’t answer that yet because we haven’t really discussed it internally. That’s a decision that Wyc and Rich will ultimately make. You guys know the answers to those anyway. We’ll just let the other people make those decisions, make those calls.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett, KG

Kelly Olynyk raves about meeting Tom Brady, calls him ‘an unbelievable individual’

09.26.16 at 5:48 pm ET
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WALTHAM – Kelly Olynyk is pretty psyched that Tom Brady is coming back to the NFL after next week. 

The Celtics center said one of the highlights of his summer of rehab from shoulder surgery was listening and talking to Tom Brady as the Patriots quarterback spent time on Long Island trying to lure Kevin Durant to Boston. 

“Brady’s an unbelievable individual,” Olynyk said during Monday’s media day. “He’s really, really smart. Just to be able to pick his brain for a half-hour, an hour, going down there was awesome, his philosophies, the way he lives his life. How professional he is, the way attacks every single game, every single moment and just kind of year-round, 24/7, it was awesome to see through his eyes, and hear it through his mouth, what he does and what it takes to be great.

“He’s really exemplified that at a lot of different stages so I’m excited to see him get back in the action, too, man.” 

As for his shoulder, the seven-footer said he’s getting better and better but still hasn’t been cleared for contact following surgery on the right shoulder on May 16. 

“Shoulder’s doing well. It’s coming along,” Olynyk said. “It’s been a long haul of rehab but it’s getting stronger and improving every day. Seeing visual improvements now. It’s doing well. It just needs to get a little bit stronger so that muscles can protect it and take a hit.” 

Olynyk re-aggravated the shoulder in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Hawks after suffering the initial injury in the final game before the All-Star break in February against the Clippers. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kelly Olynyk, NBA, New England Patriots

Celtics Player Preview: Jalen Jones

09.26.16 at 12:30 pm ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

2015-16 season 

33 games with Texas A&M: 27.3 minutes, 15.3 points, 42.5% FG, 7.2 rebounds, 0.7 steals

Jones was one of the Aggies’ go-to scorers his senior year. His long frame helped him score baskets at an efficient rate. Jones began his college career at SMU but sat out of the 2013-14 season after transferring to Texas A&M. He became a starter almost immediately after the start of his junior year and put together his best season last year. 

Projected role in 2016-17

Jones will be one of four players without guaranteed contracts at training camp and was the last man added to the 20-man roster. He most likely will spend his season in the D-League.

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Read More: 2016 Celtics Player Preview, Jalen Jones,

Paul Pierce announces he will retire after this season

09.26.16 at 9:45 am ET
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Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce kept it short, sweet and direct. He’s retiring after this season.

The soon-to-be 39-year-old announced on The Players’ Tribune website Monday morning that after this season with the Clippers he will be retiring. He accompanied a story with a tweet reading: “It’s time.”

There was speculation throughout most of the summer about whether Pierce would return for a final season after a noticeable decline in numbers last season, his first with the Clippers. He averaged a career-worst 6.1 points per game over 18.1 minutes in 68 games.

He makes no mention in the story of his time or future with the Celtics.

Doc Rivers, his current boss who also coached him with the Celtics, mentioned earlier this month that Pierce has “got to retire as a Celtic,” but should that come to fruition it will require some patience by Celtics fans.

Pierce grew up in Los Angeles and cited that in his story as well as the hunger and belief the Clippers have that they will win an NBA title.

With NBA training camps set to begin this week, Pierce is going to just enjoy the ride.

Said Pierce in his announcement, “After 18 NBA years, it’s hard to believe I’ll be playing in each arena for the last time. So I’m going to enjoy every practice, every bus ride, every team dinner, every time running out through the tunnel. I’m going to do my part to give us a shot at the ultimate goal.”

Read More: Los Angeles Clippers, Paul Pierce,

Celtics Player Preview: Kelly Olynyk

09.25.16 at 10:20 am ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.


2015-16 season

69 games with Celtics: 20.2 minutes, 10.0 points, 45.5% FG, 1.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals

Olynyk established himself as a prime option both as a shooter and a big man off the bench last season. He led the team in 3-point percentage and occasionally could be relied on to grab a rebound. He started just eight games but often was one of the first players off the bench for Brad Stevens.

Projected role in 2016-17

With the addition of Al Horford, Olynyk may be able to be looked upon as a shooter and guy to run the four instead of playing down low. This would enable him to shoot more than he did last season — which could see mixed results. Nonetheless, he will be looked at as one of the first options off the bench to play in the front court.

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Read More: 2016 Celtics Player Preview, Kelly Olynyk,

Celtics Player Preview: Isaiah Thomas

09.24.16 at 2:16 pm ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.


2015-16 season

82 games with Celtics: 32.2 minutes, 22.2 points, 42.8% FG, 6.2 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals

The point guard certainly earned his first career All-Star appearance last season, and as a result had his name rightfully being tossed around with the top point guards in the league. He started all but three games and proved he could do it all on both ends of the floor. He could force turnovers on defense and be a stout defender. He could be a ball distributor or score off the dribble and drive. Whatever Brad Stevens asked of him, he answered the call, all the while always seeming to know his role in late, intense situations, whether it was making a key pass, taking the big shot or playing lockdown defense.

Projected role in 2016-17

Don’t expect anything to change for Thomas. He almost certainly will be the starting point guard and will have to do it all for Stevens, and he should be able to do just that. He’ll have to continue to be a defensive threat, but he’ll still need to serve as one of the best ball distributors in the league but be willing to shoot at the same time — something that shouldn’t be an issue for him.

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