‘He has my back’: Al Horford on building chemistry with new Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis


Only five minutes into their preseason opener this Sunday, both Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis proved why they can share the court and not just show their offensive prowess, but also protect the rim together. Just as Sixers’ Tobias Harris was on his way to score, the two Boston big men stood in front of him as the Latvian produced his first block in a Celtics jersey.

This play seemed almost in-sync, as it went to show the results of both centers training together since September, and are already entering this preseason with an important level of confidence towards the campaign ahead.

“I feel like the fact that we were both in here early in September really helped us get into a nice start,” Horford said after practice this weekend. “Obviously we have a ways to go, continuing to develop the chemistry, but I feel pretty good with where we’re at.”

The Celtics veteran is at an advantage, considering he already known Boston’s system for the past couple of seasons. This gives Horford an extra responsibility of helping his European teammate to adapt to the team’s strategy.

“I feel like he’s really doing a good job with the attention to detail, especially on the defensive end,” said the 37-year-old. “With us, we’re asking him to do a lot, to cover a lot of things. Already I feel like he has my back covering different positions on the court. Everybody knows his offense. His offense is great. We know he can do a lot of things. But on defense, he’s doing a good job of talking to us, protecting the basket and really staying active.”

The former Wizards star is well known for his offensive presence, but as Horford mentioned, he’ll need to tune up his defensive qualities as well. The seven-foot-three big man just averaged a career-high 23.2 points per game last season, and throughout his nine NBA campaigns, he’s averaged 6.6 on defensive rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest.

“I just think he has really good instincts,” the Celtics vet noted. “Sometimes it’s not easy when you’re on the back line trying to recognize when to come help, when to drop off, things like that. It comes pretty easy, from what I’ve seen. He’s able to recover, make a play, and be able to help us.”

Porzingis has been very outspoken about his excitement of joining Boston, revealing this is what he always wanted

Kristaps has always wanted to compete for an NBA title, but had never played for a title-contending franchise and has just recently been given the opportunity in Massachusetts.

“At this point in my career, this is what I really wanted, to be able to try to win it all,” the Latvian star told the press this weekend, as he prepared for this Sunday’s preseason match.

“Especially wearing these colors and this organization, which is, as I keep saying, if not the most iconic than top two most iconic franchises there are,” he insisted. “And I’m playing for this team. So it’s absolutely incredible. An incredible opportunity for me, and I’m just grateful for it all.”

During his first two games of the preseason, Porzingis has already averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds per game. Now Boston are preparing for their two last contests before the start of the 2023/24 NBA campaign, the first will be this Tuesday in the TD Garden vs. New York and then visit the Hornets on Thursday.