Celtics

Al Horford opts out but seems on board with Celtics youth movement

Al Horford opts out but seems on board with Celtics youth movement

News that Al Horford is opting out of the final year of his current deal shouldn't come as a major surprise.

It has seemed like the most probable route for the 33-year-old big man, who is essentially sacrificing a monster payday for the security of a longer-term deal, and aiding Boston’s cap/tax situation in the process. After battling knee soreness for much of last season, there’s value in Horford cashing in long term as he starts to exit the prime of his career.

Still, with Boston’s grandest plans fizzling at the start of the offseason, it would have been understandable if Horford opted into the big payday and pushed the question about his future to the summer of 2020.

Even with Boston’s failed pursuit of Anthony Davis, coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the return of Kyrie Irving, league sources have maintained that Horford would have a strong interest in re-signing with Boston. Opting out affords him some additional flexibility to watch how the NBA Draft and the start of free agency plays out before he has to make a firm decision about his future.

Even if Horford is on board with a youth movement and trusts in the 2018 playoff core, including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and maybe Terry Rozier, he can be further convinced return to Boston if the Celtics make the sort of small-splash moves that confirm they still view themselves as contenders, even with a roster devoid of more established stars. A lower cap number for Horford could give the Celtics a tiny bit of additional flexibility if Irving is to walk away. 

The Celtics do not generate any immediate cap space with Horford’s decision to opt out. The team maintains a hefty cap hold but own his rights and can re-sign him above the salary cap up to a max deal. Most speculation seem to peg his next deal as something in the neighborhood of three years, $66 million, which limits the money Horford might be losing in opting out.

Despite the knee issues that contributed to a slow start, Horford was an absolute monster for the Celtics in the 2019 playoffs. He’s an integral part of Boston’s potential in a conference that includes Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Celtics already got Aron Baynes to opt in, meaning Horford would have a beefy big man alongside to defray some of the wear and tear against pure centers.

Horford could be particularly important this season if the Celtics throw the keys to the young core. Horford can provide veteran leadership and guidance without needing the typical superstar spotlight. His playmaking abilities could be key to keeping an offense afloat if Irving is to depart.

Horford has maintained that, at this stage of his career, competing for a title is his focus and the Celtics must show him they remain committed to that pursuit. It’d have been easier to do that if they landed Davis and maintained Irving. But Horford knows the potential of the team — especially with a healthy Gordon Hayward — after the team’s storybook 2018 playoff run.

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Grant Williams describes meeting Bill Russell at Celtics-Lakers game

Grant Williams describes meeting Bill Russell at Celtics-Lakers game

Any time the Boston Celtics play in Los Angeles, there are bound to be celebrities in the crowd. The Celtics and the Lakers have arguably the greatest rivalry in NBA history, after all, so watching them square off is a must-see event when both teams are good.

But on Sunday afternoon, there was one famous person in the crowd that caught the attention of Celtics rookie Grant Williams. That would be Celtics legend and 11-time NBA champion, Bill Russell.

Russell appeared at the game to watch the Celtics in action, but also wore a jersey to honor the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. And evidently, Williams took some time to talk to Russell at halftime.

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After the contest, Williams communicated what his message to the NBA great was.

“I just wanted to thank him for everything he’s done for the game,” Williams said per Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com. “I said I was thankful, because he was so impactful. He was a dude who was one of the best players in the game, a historic Boston legend, and honestly it was just good to see him in person for the first time. You see all the celebrities in LA and all this stuff, but I was more focused on Bill Russell than anybody else. Denzel was there, all those other guys, but Bill was special.”

And Williams also communicated that getting a chance to play in a Celtics-Lakers rivalry game in front of one of the best players of all-time was "really cool".

“It was really cool, especially a game of that magnitude and intensity,” Williams said. “Lakers vs. Celtics, something that one of the biggest rivalries in sports and playing against LeBron, it was fun. It was a competitive environment. Hopefully he enjoyed it.”

It's really nice to see that Williams truly appreciates NBA history and one of the greatest Celtics of all-time. He will surely remember this moment for a long time.

During his rookie season, Williams is averaging 3.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assist per game while playing 15.5 minutes off the bench. The 2019 first-round pick could play a key role as a small-ball center for the squad as they gear up for a playoff run.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

LeBron James congratulates Jayson Tatum on Instagram for 41-point game

LeBron James congratulates Jayson Tatum on Instagram for 41-point game

Jayson Tatum is starting to emerge as one of the NBA's young superstars. And his performance on Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers only fueled the hype surrounding him over the course of the past month.

The Boston Celtics forward had one of the best outings of his career on Sunday. He tied a career-high with 41 points and did everything he could to help keep the Celtics alive against the Lakers. They couldn't ultimately pull off the win, but losing by just two without Kemba Walker's services was certainly impressive.

Tatum did a lot to power the C's and keep them in the game. And some of his most notable peers took notice of his performance.

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After Tatum's excellent outing, Lakers forward LeBron James posted to Instagram to congratulate and encourage Tatum. Here's a look at James' post.

That's a decent gesture from James, and it's one that Tatum won't soon forget. And neither will he forget the seemingly emotional embrace the two shared after the tightly contested contest ground to an end.

It's also worth noting that Tatum did play as part of Team LeBron at NBA All-Star weekend. So, they likely connected there and it sure seems that James, who drafted Tatum in the All-Star captains' fantasy draft, admires the young star's game.

Over his past 10 games since returning from a groin injury, Tatum has averaged 28.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game for the Celtics. If he keeps producing at that clip, it'll be great news for the team's hopes of being a playoff contender.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.