Celtics

Al Horford says Celtics' tampering suggestions are 'ridiculous'

Al Horford says Celtics' tampering suggestions are 'ridiculous'

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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Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers live stream: How to watch NBA game online

Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers live stream: How to watch NBA game online

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers meet Thursday night for the first time since opening night and they have the added drama of Al Horford, who spent three years with the Celtics, returning to the Hub in an enemy uniform.

The two rivals again are vying for supremacy in the NBA's Eastern Conference, with the Celtics owning the third spot in the East at 17-6 and the Sixers currently fourth at 18-7. The C's will be out to avenge their opening night loss in Philly, which was the last time they saw old friend Horford, who makes his return to Boston after leaving as a free agent to join the longtime rivals in the City of Brotherly Love. 

Horford's departure was not without a little controversy. He spent three seasons with the Celtics, then declined his $30 million option for 2019-20 to become a free agent, but was expected to re-sign with Boston, only to take the more lucrative four-year, $109 million deal from Philly that he was rumored to have secured before the official start of free agency July 1. 

It will be interesting to see the reception the big man gets in his TD Garden return.

Be sure to tune into NBC Sports Boston for Celtics Pregame Live at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the game at 8 p.m. ET or stream it via the MyTeams app. 

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Jaylen Brown: Al Horford 'should be celebrated' in his return to Boston with 76ers

Jaylen Brown: Al Horford 'should be celebrated' in his return to Boston with 76ers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jaylen Brown has been around the Celtics fan base long enough to know that they can be hard on former C's who return with their new teams. 

Or in the case of Kyrie Irving, whose new team (the Brooklyn Nets) showed up to the TD Garden while he stayed in Brooklyn because of a shoulder injury, Celtics fans will boo the hell out of you even if you're not in the building.

Brown has no idea how they are going to react to ex-Celtic Al Horford returning for the first time with the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. 

Still, he has a pretty good idea of what that moment will be like for him when Horford is introduced with the Philly starters. 

“He should be celebrated,” Brown said. “Boston fans, they're gonna do what they want, right? Al came here, contributed, took this team the farthest it’s been since ‘08 [NBA champions]. Al served his time well here."

Brown added, “For me, he was a great leader, a great person… I know I’ll clap for him when they call his name. That’s just me.”

In his three seasons with the Celtics, Boston won 63.8 percent of their games with Horford on the roster in addition to advancing to the playoffs each season, which included consecutive trips (2017 and 2018) to the Eastern Conference finals. 

MORE ON HORFORD'S RETURN IN THE CELTICS TALK PODCAST, LISTEN HERE:

In 208 regular-season games with the Celtics, Horford averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists. 

Semi Ojeleye echoed similar sentiments about Horford. 

“Just a great guy, a great man, a great leader,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston earlier. “All of us young guys who are still here, we learned a lot from our time around Al.”

Still, Brown added, don’t get it twisted. 

He and his teammates from last season have lots of love for Al, before and after the game. 

But when the ball goes up and the game starts? That’s another matter entirely. 

“Every time I see Al, that’s my guy,” Brown said. “I’m looking forward to it, say hello before the game. But while we on the court… don’t talk to me.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.