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Al Horford commends Celtics rookie’s work ethic: ‘He’s about winning’

Jordan Walsh

Boston Celtics’ Jordan Walsh during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks Monday, Oct. 9, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)AP

BOSTON — While the Celtics are busy preparing for a title-contending season, Jordan Walsh gets to see what it’s like to compete at the highest level. As the lone draft pick the Celtics took this summer, Walsh is the only rookie on the roster as he gets some trial by fire.

Of course, Walsh also gets to pick some of the veteran’s brains behind the scenes. Al Horford, 37, even gave Walsh, 19, some homework heading into training camp: Watch old-time, classic movies. On the court, Horford said he’s already noticed the Arkansas product’s work ethic.

“I just think Jordan is a great kid,” Horford said. “He’s really trying to understand how to be a pro. He’s about the right things already. He’s about winning, he’s about caring for the team, doing what he has to do with us. With that attitude, it’s going to take him a long way. It’s been great to watch him, his work ethic, his commitment, he’s always one of the first ones here in the buildi

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Walsh, the 38th overall pick, turned heads in Summer League. There weren’t many questions about his defense considering his 7-foot-3 wingspan — it’s why Boston president Brad Stevens pointed out his ability to “swallow” people up defensively. The offense was the bigger question mark, and the coaches drilled into Walsh that he can’t pass up open 3-pointers.

Walsh impressed immediately in his five Summer League games, averaging a team-high 16.0 points. Notably, he knocked down 40.7% of his 3-pointers in Las Vegas as he looked the part of a pro.

The Celtics signed him to a four-year contract to start his career. At this point in camp, Walsh said he knows what his role is and that it will be a process to get better.

“You’re going to have to bide your time, be professional and take it step-by-step, because it’s not going to be given to you because you’re a new guy and nobody really knows you,” Walsh said last week. “So just being able to take it step-by-step and not rush the process is really important and that’s what I’m learning to do now.”

Walsh has gotten some run over the last two preseason games, playing in 32 minutes while scoring five points. There are the flashes of athleticism and ability, though he’s still plenty raw.

The Celtics chose him for the chance to mold him into a contributor down the line. Walsh will need to earn those minutes this season considering the team’s expectations. But the early days of camp have at least impressed the resident veteran in Horford.

“He’s always asking questions, always trying to learn,” Horford said. “He already has that right mindset. For me, it’s to kind of let him grow and develop and be there for him, as a sounding board if he needs anything, any advice or anything like that. He’s doing a great job so far.”