Derrick White's chipped tooth, Al Horford's future, and more: Celtics takeaways

BOSTON — Payton Pritchard might be known as the heave god around town now, but it’s not by design. Seeing how consistently and comfortably Pritchard buries buzzer-beaters from all over the court, it would be fair to presume he practices these shots frequently.

But Pritchard said Monday at a charity event that when it comes to the defining shot of his career, he doesn’t practice it at all.

“In the moment, I just feel like deep range,” Pritchard said. “And if I can find a spot that I can get it there, I just believe.”

But the shot doesn’t happen without Al Horford, who grabbed the rebound, spun around and found his teammate just in time. While Horford might not practice his outlet passes either, he and Pritchard already knew the plan heading into the moment.

“It was funny because before the game (we) were talking about how many dribbles you could take, or how many seconds you have,” Horford said. “I was like, ‘Well, just to be safe, you know, don’t over-dribble.’”

Then when the opportunity arrived, Pritchard checked himself into the game, according to Jaylen Brown, and went over to Horford.

“He was in my ear letting me know,” Horford said. “And as soon as I got that, I had to make sure I secured it.”

While Pritchard had a memorable moment in the NBA Finals, so too did Derrick White. During Game 5, Mavs center Dereck Lively II went for a loose ball and landed on White’s head on the floor, chipping White’s front tooth. The Celtics guard was able to shake off what looked like a gruesome injury at and explained how the whole scene went down.

“In the moment, I thought my whole tooth was gone. So I was pretty worried about that,” he said. But then they just told me that I chipped it. I chipped it in the past, so I just said, ‘Forget it, let’s go.’”

When he went back to the locker room, the medical staff was examining his tooth and trying to figure out how to treat it. White told them to proceed with their plan, under one condition.

“I don’t care what you do as long as I’m back out there,” he said.

White is entering the last year of his contract and is coming off a transformative season that would make him one of the top free agents in 2025. The Celtics have been busy locking up all of their core players to extensions over the past year, but there is still some business to handle.

The Athletic’s John Hollinger reported last week that White’s max extension would be four years, $127 million, which would be just shy of the four-year, $134 million fully guaranteed extension Jrue Holiday agreed to just before the postseason. Anyone who watched the Celtics’ playoff run knows that it’s a no-brainer to offer White that max deal based on his performance, age, and injury history. Most importantly, he has said publicly he wants to stay in Boston.

He’ll turn 30 this summer and hasn’t missed significant time since the 2020-21 season. Even chipping a tooth couldn’t keep him off the floor in a blowout Game 5 of the finals. He’s become one of Boston’s most reliable players in so many ways, from his availability to flexibility.

But Boston has to contend with the second apron, which will effectively limit the Celtics to signing minimum free agents, and the repeater tax, which will force Celtics ownership to pay a sum far beyond anything they’ve done before. That bodes well for Sam Hauser, who has a team option for the minimum this year and is also extension-eligible.

Hauser has been one of Boston’s best development stories in the Brad Stevens era, signing as an undrafted rookie and steadily growing into a playoff rotation player by his third season. The sharpshooter is represented by Jason Glushon, the same agent who agreed to extensions for Horford, Jaylen Brown, and Holiday over the past year-plus. The Celtics signed Payton Pritchard to a four-year, $30 million extension before the season, so the $7.5 million average annual value can serve as a bellwether for Hauser’s value.

Because of the second apron’s punitive free agency restrictions, Boston cannot effectively replace Hauser if he were to leave next summer. The same goes for unrestricted free agent Xavier Tillman, for whom the Celtics sent Memphis a pair of second-round picks at the trade deadline.

Tillman told WBZ’s Dan Roche at the championship parade that he “badly” wants to repeat, indicating a willingness to re-sign in Boston even if he is still just outside the rotation at this point. Now that Oshae Brissett has opted out of his player option to pursue a multi-year deal in unrestricted free agency, Boston has more incentive to keep Tillman.

Considering Horford will retire at some point in the next few years and Kristaps Porziņģis’ injury history, Boston would be wise to fortify its succession plan for the center rotation as soon as possible. But Horford will be around for now, making it clear he isn’t going anywhere.

“I don’t know how that all got started, to be honest. I’m coming back. That’s the plan,” Horford said. “We already talked about our offseason, how it’s gonna look like. I need to take a little time off right now, but I’ll start training in a couple weeks again and build it back up and I’ll be ready to go.”

When asked if he knows how much longer he will play, he said, “No, not really.” Seeing how well he was able to hold up throughout Boston’s playoff run, he doesn’t appear to be at risk of being played out of the league. For the 38-year-old, the decision to keep going won’t be a question of health, at least quite yet.

“I feel good, I want to keep it going and I know that I have to be cautious with how I approach the season and how I go throughout the season,” he said. “But I feel like our Celtics medical group did a really good job managing me this season with the loads and everything and making sure that I was feeling at my best when I needed to.”

Though he had to take a step back and become the sixth man when Porziņģis arrived, he ended up starting 48 of the team’s 101 total games this year. He is still a key piece to this team, something he got to truly appreciate during the championship parade.

“I made eye contact with a lot of people, I made sure of that. And when I’m looking at people, they are genuinely happy,” Horford said. “Everybody’s celebrating, everybody feels a part of it. That was my biggest thing. I wanted everybody to feel a part of that we did this together.”

(Photo of Derrick White: Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

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