Al Horford said it’s “ridiculous” if the Boston Celtics are upset about any sort of tampering that occurred last month after Horford opted out of the final year of his deal.
Horford, appearing on the Dan Patrick Show on Monday, said he was aware of an ESPN report that suggested the Celtics had “stomped their feet” about what they considered tampering with Horford before the start of free agency. But Horford, who declined a $30.1 million option before signing a four-year, $109 million offer with the Philadelphia 76ers, dismissed it.
"I just think it’s -- what can I say? — it’s ridiculous,” said Horford. "It is what it is. Danny [Ainge] -- I love Danny. Danny was really good to me. I know he’s definitely frustrated that things didn’t work out with us.”
Horford opted out in mid-June and initial reports suggested he was eager to work towards a new long-term deal with Boston. Later that same day, however, reports shifted to suggest that Horford was seeking a four-year deal that Boston wasn't offering to that point.
While tampering seemed pretty evident across the league this summer, the Celtics could be upset that, before the start of free agency on June 30, it became clear that Horford had at least one mystery suitor ready to throw big money at him over four years. That took away any leverage Boston had and made it tougher for them to negotiate a deal they felt comfortable both in terms of years and money with Horford.
Last week after introducing Kemba Walker, Ainge said that he was unsure if Horford would have made the same decision if he knew Walker was coming to Boston.
"I don’t know if Al makes the decision he makes if he knows that Kemba is coming, as an example,” said Ainge. "I have no idea if that makes -- but that’s how free agency is, sometimes you gotta make decisions before you know other certainties. But I’m not worried about that. We just have two new guys that have chosen to come play for us that really want to be here and we wish them well. I’m grateful for Al and Kyrie choosing to come play in Boston and grateful for all that they gave us.”
Earlier in his interview on The Dan Patrick Show, Horford said opting out of the final year of his contract and departing Boston was no easy choice.
"It was a very difficult decision, just looking at everything that had gone on with the season, my time in Boston, it wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly by me,” said Horford. "We thought things were going to work out a certain way with Boston and they didn’t, and, yeah, I had to start looking at the next step. But it was not easy.”
Asked what went wrong with the 2018-19 Celtics, Horford suggested expectations weighed the team down.
"We had a lot of high hopes for our group,” said Horford. "I just think that we never were able to gel like we needed to, coming together as a group, and playing at the level consistently that we needed to play.”
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