Derrick White, Al Horford, And Payton Pritchard Tell Us What Made This Celtics Team Special And Who Celebrated The Title The Hardest

The Boston Celtics finally were able to get over the hump and win an NBA championship, defeating the Mavs in five games in emphatic fashion to capture their first title in 16 years. While stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown (who earned Finals MVP honors) got the understandable spotlight after winning it all, what set this Boston team apart from the rest of the league was how every player seemed to embrace and thrive in the role they were asked to play.

Derrick White emerged as an elite two-way point guard, helping lead at the point of attack on both ends of the floor. Al Horford, the grizzled vet of the squad, bounced between a sixth man role and a starting job with Kristaps Porzingis in and out of the lineup, doing whatever was needed to keep the ship steady. Payton Pritchard saw his minutes dwindle a bit in the Finals, but made his impact felt with a pair of end of quarter heaves that found the bottom of the net and sent the Celtics and their crowd into a frenzy.

That trio stopped by Gillette’s headquarters on Monday for what’s become a Boston tradition of a “championship shave,” with Gillette donating $25,000 each to three charities in their name: Special Olympics Massachusetts, Edgerley Family South Boston Boys & Girls Club, and Best Buddies in Massachusetts & Rhode Island. After getting a fresh shave, the three champions sat down with DIME over Zoom to talk about how they found their roles on this title team, what made this group special, and debated which of their teammates celebrated the title the hardest.

Does that shave feel a little better when you’re a champion?

Al: You definitely feel better.

Derrick: Shout out to Gillette. The shave always feels great with Gillette, but as a champion and getting the championship shave? This is unbeatable.

We saw the parade on Friday and all the love that y’all were able to get from the Boston fans. And being able to do something like this to give back to the community with all the support that you receive, what does that mean to y’all?

Al: It means a lot. For us to be in this position and really embrace all our fans and spend that moment with all the Celtics fans, which, I know a lot of people even came from out of town to join the parade. That’s special. And then being in this position here, you know, with Gillette and being able to help different charities that we’re involved with, it’s also a pretty special thing. You know, we’re trying to have an impact in that way as well.

Payton, I want to start with you. How does it feel to be the most prolific half-court shot king in NBA Finals history?

Payton: [laughs] It’s a crazy feeling. But at the end of the day, I’m just fortunate to do the little things that help our team to get over the top and, you know, be part of history. So, that’s the biggest feeling I have, is just lucky to be a part of this group.

How special is this team to have guys where it seems everybody is able to buy into the roles that they’re being asked to do? And for someone like you, who, your minutes might not always be consistent, but being able to impact the team, even if it is, you know, five minutes or five seconds left in the quarter and finding your way to put your impact on things?

Payton: You know, I think that just comes with our group and how special of a group we have. And, you know, there’s a lot of talented players. So, you have to kind of keep that mindset of staying ready, cause you never know when your opportunity’s gonna come, and when it does come, you have to take full advantage of it. And I’ve kind of just tried to keep that same mindset since I’ve been in the league and then will continue to keep that.

Derrick, for you. I mean, last time I talked with you was in San Antonio a few years ago and you talked about learning about how simple works and that was a message that you got as a rookie was like, the simple play works. How have you grown and evolved your game along with that mindset to be able to have the impact that you’ve had on both ends of the floor?

Derrick: Yeah, I think just consistently making the right play. And that’s just what I’m trying to do is, whatever the game tells you to do. Me and Matt [Reynolds] talk before every game and he says just do what the game tells you to do. And I just think that’s the mindset that I have each game and so it doesn’t need to be eight different crossovers to a stepback three, but just simple move, a simple pass, sprinting back on defense, all the little things will lead to really the big goal at the end of the day.

And getting to this team, what is it about this group that’s allowed you to flourish in the way that you have and seems to have elevated what you’re able to do?

Derrick: I just think seeing everybody work day in and day out, like it just makes you want to get to the gym. It makes you want to work harder to continue to improve. So just seeing such high-level guys take care of their bodies, getting their time in the weight room, it just motivates you to continue to work hard, and everybody just continuing to believe in me and pushing me to play the game that I know I can play. Being here has been a great blessing, and I’m just thankful for the whole group and every teammate that I’ve had.

Al, I covered you in Atlanta for years and watched you adapt and grow your game as you’ve gotten older and as the game’s changed — I remember the debates of whether you should shoot threes in Atlanta. What has your journey been like in adapting your game and kind of staying up to date with how the NBA has grown to be to the point where at 38, you can still play such a big role on a title team?

Al: I’m grateful to be in this position. I think it’s not easy in the league to be able to make transitions and to be able to change your game or to adapt to certain things that are required. Like you said, my first few years in Atlanta, my game was completely different. You know, it was inside and things like that. But, I feel like my faith kept me strong, and gave me confidence and understanding that if I put in the work, that I was going to be able to reach certain levels and I was going to be able to impact winning. That’s always been my biggest thing. How do I impact winning? And one of the things that I did was, make sure that I worked really hard on different things, and in this case with shooting the three ball to be able to be in a better position to help the team, and to be able to stay more relevant, and be able to have an impact on a team. That’s been my progression, and I’ve been able to I feel like continue to improve on that each year.

What were the things that you were telling the guys to your right and left here and the younger guys in the locker room about embracing when you have a special group like you seemed to have this year, and what that opportunity means? Because as an NBA player you’re looking for these teams and they don’t come around all that often.

Al: No question about it. You know, I feel like, especially with the two guys that I have here, I think they’ve always understood the opportunity that we had in front of us. Even though they haven’t been in the league as long as I have, they understand how hard it is to win, how hard it is to have a good group. A group that is easy to work with, it’s easy to get along with, and I feel like from the beginning of this year, we all identified that. And I felt like we pushed each other, motivated each other on the court, but off the court as well. You know, getting in there and getting our lifts in, taking care of our bodies, getting extra shots up when we needed to. Just things like that to kind of keep each other motivated. And when you have that many guys doing those same things, I feel like you’re gonna get really good results, you’re gonna get success, and that’s what happened to us. You know, it just wasn’t one guy. It’s many guys. It’s everybody following a plan, everybody being consistent, everybody really embracing the work. And that’s how these guys knew what we had in front of us, and we all just took advantage of this opportunity.

Last one, and this one’s for all three of you. Who on the team — not just you three — who on the team has celebrated this championship the hardest?

Derrick: Gotta be Sam, right?

Al: Sam Hauser.

Payton: Sam’s been going crazy.

I’ve been seeing the videos of Sam.

Derrick: Sam’s a lot more in the public eye. But I think other guys are up there.

Al: Yeah I think honestly a lot of guys have celebrated pretty hard, but yeah, Sam and… Oshae, maybe?

Payton: Yeah, Brizzy files are gonna be crazy.