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The Boston Celtics are blessed with loads of talent. Led by arguably the best duo in the league in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have made their way back to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The offseason acquisition of veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon helped the Celtics become one of the deepest teams in the NBA. While they are deep and talented, leadership has been the team’s biggest question mark. Who is the team leader? Is it Tatum? Is it Brown? Marcus Smart? After Tuesday’s practice, Brogdon set the record straight on who is Boston’s leader.

Malcolm Brogdon says Al Horford is the leader of the Boston Celtics

Malcolm Brogdon of the Boston Celtics reacts against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Wells Fargo Center on May 11, 2023, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images.

Ask most Celtics fans who the leader of the team is, and you’d probably hear a lot of them say it’s Marcus Smart. Smart has been with the team the longest and is the most vocal player on the team. Smart would be as good a guess as any.

Leadership isn’t coming from the coaching staff, and that’s no knock on first-year head coach Joe Mazzulla. The 34-year-old Mazzulla was pressed into action after previous head coach Ime Udoka was issued a yearlong suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. At times, Mazzulla looks like he’s overwhelmed, but he has the Celtics one series away from another berth in the NBA Finals.

After Tuesday’s practice in preparation for Wednesday’s Game 1 of the conference finals against the Miami Heat, Brogdon explained who the team’s leader is.

“I think the guy we’ve followed all season, our leader, is Al Horford,” Brogdon said. “I think he’s going to continue to lead us.

“There was a point in practice today where it was a little light. Practice was light, and guys were a little loose. Al brought us together and told us to tighten it up. I think it’s those constant reminders from our leader that’s going to help us stay poised.

“He’s seen the most, but he’s also just taken the throne on leading us. You know you have a special leader when guys like Jayson Tatum, a top-five player in the world, and Jaylen Brown, another top player in the world, listen to him.”

After a rough showing in the series, Horford came up big in Game 7


If Jayson Tatum Steps Up As He Did in Game 7, Nobody Is Beating the Boston Celtics

For the most part, Horford had a rough showing against the Philadelphia 76ers in the conference semifinals. On the offensive side of the ball, he struggled mightily. The Celtics center combined for two points in Games 5 and 6. He missed all of his shots — all three-pointers — in Game 5, going 0-for-7. In Game 6, he went 1-for-5 from the floor.

It was Game 7 when Horford stepped up. Again, he didn’t have the greatest offensive game, finishing with six points on 2-for-6 shooting. He did pull down 10 rebounds, but he made his mark on defense, shutting down league MVP Joel Embiid.

Horford hounded Embiid all game, forcing him into a 5-for-18 shooting effort. He finished with 15 points. Horford’s performance hasn’t gone unnoticed, and Brogdon and the Celtics want nothing more than to bring home a championship for the veteran center.

“Absolutely,” Brogdon said. “That’s a huge piece for us. Al has given this league so much. He’s given this organization so much, these guys so much. I think a big piece for us is we want to see him go out on top, go out with a championship, go out with a ring. He’s more deserving than anybody.”