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January 2, 2018

Al Horford

New York, New York

Q. The start of the season so far for Boston has been very, very good. You're currently in first place in the Eastern Conference. Do you think that this season you really have all the tools to fight against Cleveland in the postseason and to try, of course, to reach the NBA Finals?
AL HORFORD: Yeah, I mean, I feel like we've been playing really good basketball, like you said. I feel like we have a really young group that our guys just keep getting better as the season goes along. As a group, we're going to keep getting better, and I do feel like we have what it takes to contend for a championship.

Q. You missed the chance to play in London when the Hawks came over a few years ago. Does that actually make it even more satisfying that you get the chance to actually come over here this time?
AL HORFORD: Yes. I'm very excited. As soon as we found out earlier this summer we were going to play in London, my wife and I were just ecstatic, very happy about it. I'm really trying to make the most out of the trip. We've been to London before. We love the city. So we're looking forward to spending a couple days over there.

Q. You're playing the Cavs tomorrow. Your thoughts about playing against them again? And second, talk about how the young guys have been able to help you immediately, from Aron Baynes to Jayson Tatum to Jaylen Brown to the other young guys on the team.
AL HORFORD: It'll be a fun matchup tomorrow, to go against Cleveland and see some of the former teammates. It's going to be very competitive. We're excited about the challenge.

I've been very encouraged by how quickly some of our younger guys have been able to come along and help us as a team. Part of our success is because they've been able to do what Coach [Brad Stevens] is asking of them. They've been put in tough positions, and they've been able to handle it really well. I feel like they're going to continue to get better, and I'll be very eager to see how we're looking at the end of the year because I feel like they'll be much more comfortable and we'll be better as a group.

Q. What's it been like to play with Aron Baynes this year, and what's he brought to the lineup? Also, what are your thoughts on the way the team has handled the constant sort of changes in your lineup and the different sort of bumps and bruises throughout your road this season?
AL HORFORD: Yeah, playing with Aron Baynes has been a lot of fun, not only on the court but off the court. He's a great teammate. He's the kind of guy that you want to have on your side because he's going to play the right way. He's going to compete. And he really takes a lot of pressure off of me on the defensive end. I'm able to get out and run a little more and do different things.

Going to your second question, I think that one of the strengths of our team is the ability of always being able to change. Coach has challenged us a lot, changing lineups, because of, like you said, injuries or things. But I've felt like our team has handled that really well. Guys are not making excuses. We're stepping up to the challenge, and we're trying to make the most of what we have.

Q. What have you learned about Kyrie Irving that has made you improve your game?
AL HORFORD: Kyrie is a great competitor. He's a guy that has proved that he can play at a really high level, and I think that he's made our team better. He has, in his own way, challenged me to be better, especially to be more aggressive on the offensive end, and just striving to be a better player. So it's been a lot of fun being able to play alongside him.

Q. A word on your French teammate Guerschon Yabusele. Back in September you said the kid can play, and it seems he hasn't had a chance to prove himself yet. Do you agree? Do you think he's an interesting addition to the team, and do you have an explanation as to why he doesn't play much?
AL HORFORD: Oh, yeah, Guerschon, I still believe it, he can play. You know, sometimes in the NBA, some guys are able to figure things out quicker than others. Sometimes it takes a full year for you to totally understand a new system, what's your role, what's expected. But Guerschon, he still impresses me. He has gotten some opportunities in the past couple weeks. It's a long season. I feel like he'll continue to get some more opportunities. But I think that people have to understand that he will be at that level -- he'll be able to play. He'll be able to do a lot of special things. But sometimes it just takes time, and he'll get his opportunity.

Q. We spoke to you in September and you were quite optimistic about what the Celtics could achieve this season, even though there was a lot of doubt based on changes that happened during the offseason. Do you think you can have fun being part of a successful team, or are you too involved in the process of winning night after night to enjoy the progress made by the Celtics?
AL HORFORD: I think the focus always has to be on the night tonight, but I do sit back and look at the big picture. We've had a lot of adversity as a group, a lot of guys that have never played in the NBA that have come in and had an impact. I look at all that and I do appreciate the progress and how well we've played. But then also at the same time, I always bring myself back down, and it's important for us to focus on the game to game and the process and just continue to get better. And I think that's the key for our group.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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