JIM MONE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
MINNEAPOLIS — Celtics forward Al Horford this season made his fifth All-Star team and entered Thursday’s game against the Timberwolves averaging 12.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. Just six other NBA players have equaled all three of those marks this season.
But Horford, who is in the second season of a four-year, $113 million maximum contract, has often been subject to criticism by fans and even some media members, mostly due to his inability to take over a game. Horford, for one, is not concerned about that, though.
“There’s things that as a player — probably the fans may not appreciate it — but as players and coaches, you know what guys bring, and that’s what I’ve always been about,” he said. “I’m about helping my team win. Of course I want to be able to have bigger games or whatever, but my priority is always putting the team first, and I’m OK with that.”
Horford has scuffled a bit since the All-Star break, averaging 8.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting just 38 percent from the field before Thursday. But the Celtics are 6-1 since the break, and Horford, who scored 20 points in the 117-109 win over Minnesota, points to that.
“The way I’ve always approached it is if we’re winning and people want to talk about me, it’s fine,” he said. “If we’re losing, then you really get on me, and I’ll definitely try to be better to help us win. But I’m fine with it, as long as we’re winning and we’re playing good basketball.
“For me, it’s just understanding where your priorities are. There’s some guys that worry about other things, maybe individual things. With me, and people know this, since I’ve gotten to the league the first day I’ve always been about trying to help my team win, trying to play for my teammates. That’s just the way that I am. I’ve been able to deal with it just fine.”
In what has become a weekly occurrence, prominent people continue to say that Gordon Hayward is not expected to return from his ankle injury this season. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said as much during his weekly appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday, and Wednesday night Hayward’s father, Gordon Sr., even chimed in.
“I don’t believe that Gordon thinks he’s going to play,” Ainge said.
Hayward Sr., meanwhile, added his thoughts during an interview with the Deseret News on Wednesday night.
“He’s working his tail off, and if he could play, that would be great,” Hayward Sr. said. “But I don’t think that’s really possible. He’s not even running or jumping yet.”
The Celtics have consistently said they do not expect Hayward to return this season, but in recent weeks the tone has left little room for conjecture. Coach Brad Stevens gave perhaps the most definitive answer on Saturday morning, one day after Hayward posted a video on Twitter showing himself taking some light jump shots.
“He’s not playing this year,” Stevens said. “I don’t know what else to say.”
Hayward suffered a fracture-dislocation of his left ankle in the first quarter of the Celtics’ season-opening loss to the Cavaliers. He is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of next season’s training camp.
Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, who was injured in a scary fall after a dunk Thursday night, said he has received an extremely positive response since giving a speech and taking part in a question and answer session at the Harvard Graduate School of Education last week.
Brown touched on everything from the educational system to racial inequality, and he said the conversation has already led to new invitations from MIT and Harvard Law. He said he was most pleased that his mother and grandmother could be in attendance.
“My grandma, I guess she was a little surprised,” Brown said, smiling. “She was like, ‘I didn’t know you knew all that.’ That was pretty funny, but they were supportive.”
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