Al Horford’s ‘Longevity’ Up To Par With All-Time NBA Legends

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BOSTON — Celtics center Al Horford reached the 17-season mark, taking on a veteran leadership/unofficial sixth starter’s role for a new and improved Boston roster with expectations up to the ceiling.

Last season, Horford made the necessary stride of devoting time in the offseason to develop an outside jump shot — one better suited for a Celtics team that relies on much of its offensive production from beyond the perimeter. Horford crushed that challenge, shooting 44.6% on a career-high 5.2 attempts while still being available to register 63 starts.

But there’s much more to Horford’s notable longevity than adapting to the modern-day NBA atmosphere, putting the now-37-year-old in the same boat as 39-year-old Los Angeles Lakers All-Star LeBron James.

“Just the routine,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham told reporters before Boston and Los Angeles squared off at TD Garden. “… Just the preparation process, man. The way they prepare and how meticulously they are with their routines. Their regimen, sleep habits, eating habits, as well as they give and how efficient they are. It breeds sustainability and it breeds longevity. To me, that’s the common denominator with them all.”

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Ham also listed Chauncey Billups and Ray Allen in the bunch.

Wherever Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla has needed to plug Horford, whether in the starting lineup or off the bench, the five-time All-Star is ready.

After Boston acquired 28-year-old Kristaps Porzingis from the Memphis Grizzlies in the offseason, it was unofficially announced that Horford would move from the lineup to the bench. However, being the reserve unit’s commander has also given Horford recognition as an extension to Mazzulla’s starting five, playing 27.1 minutes a night this season.

“It’s everything,” Mazzulla said. “It’s the way he takes care of his body. It’s the mental approach, the ability to stay even keel, not get too worked up. Also having an understanding that there’s a standard. There’s a certain way to play. There’s a certain accountability. Multiple, multiple experiences with great teams and great coaches. So he’s got a lot of wisdom.”

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Having already undergone a previous stint with the Celtics (from 2016 to 2019), Horford’s grown to become one the most respected members of the roster. He debuted with Boston as a member of the Isaiah Thomas-led underdog Celtics coached by Brad Stevens and returned for the early growing pain stages of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s respective emergences into NBA stardom — all while remaining serviceable in a handful of ways.

Horford intends to age like fine wine to stick around as a player, watching pro athlete legends like Tom Brady and Cristiano Rondalo control what they can to remain competitive at what most view as a retirement stage.

“Tom Brady, I was following him a lot, seeing what he’s doing and seeing what Cristiano Ronaldo’s doing and seeing what LeBron is doing and just reading about it and seeing if something kind of can benefit me and if it can go into some of the things that I want to do and kind of go from there,” Horford told reporters at Thursday’s practice, per CLNS Media. “For me, it’s always keeping an open mind and really looking at those examples and seeing how I can be better myself.”

Horford will turn 38 on June 3.

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