The NBA is back.
The Celtics will kick off the regular season on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, a matchup of teams that have faced each other 21 times in NBA postseasons — the most in NBA history. Most recently, Boston defeated Philadelphia in the 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals.
This season, the rivalry includes some crossed allegiances. Former Celtics big-man Al Horford, who signed a four-year $97 million-deal with the Sixers in free agency, will face the team he played on for the past three seasons. Horford was asked how he feels about the upcoming matchup.
“It’s going to be weird for me,” he admitted. “Different facing my former team. It’s probably as good of a scenario as it can be, first game of the year. It’s definitely going to be different. It’s not just another game. It’s a big game given the rivalry between Philly and Boston.”
Horford’s time on the Celtics was highly respected by both to his teammates and the franchise. His decision to leave was not something the team desired, and Horford called the upcoming reunion “emotional”. Still, he thinks once the game is over, both teams will be able to move forward.
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“It’s very emotional. A lot of guys you went to battle with, won a lot of games together. A lot of respect for all the players and the coaches, just the organization in general. But again, it’s the first game so once we play, I think both sides will be able to move on with their seasons.”
Despite his decision to leave the team, he feels like he “made the most” out of his career in Boston. Last season, he averaged 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.2 assists, and was an NBA all-star.
“It’s the way this business is. I’ve learned that throughout the years,” he said. “The one thing I always take from those groups [on the Celtics] is [they are a] great group of guys — always competing, always playing hard for one another. I really felt like I made the most out of my time when I was there.”