Celtics

Celtics' Kyrie Irving seems Brooklyn-bound; is Al Horford next?

Celtics' Kyrie Irving seems Brooklyn-bound; is Al Horford next?

BOSTON -- For weeks we have heard about Kyrie Irving reportedly taking his talents to Brooklyn next season. 

Well, he may not be the only Celtics player ballin’ for the Nets in the near future. 

In addition to Kyrie Irving, Al Horford is another potential addition to what could be an immense offseason haul for the Nets, according to a league source. 

The source cited three main reasons why 32-year-old Horford is a viable option for the Nets. 

ON THE RISE

Brooklyn is coming off a return to the playoffs following a three-year hiatus. The Nets were one of the peskiest, hardest-playing teams in the East and garnered the praise of many including Celtics players and coaching staff. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was among the first to publicly proclaim last season's Nets squad was good enough to be in the playoffs.

“I’d be surprised if this team’s not in the playoffs,” Stevens told reporters back in January. “They’re awfully good. Again, they’re really well-coached. I love the way they play. They play hard, they play together. Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do and they do it every night. They don’t get outside of it. Shooters shoot, drivers drive, guys that can do both do both, rollers roll. They look like a team. They’ve done a great job of building that over time. (Head coach) Kenny (Atkinson) has done a great job, his staff’s done a great job and they’ve got good players.”

But the Nets realized that they had to add great talent; the kind that can build off of last season’s first-round exit to the Philadelphia 76ers. 

The Nets didn’t waste much time once the season ended by swinging a deal with the Atlanta Hawks that created a pair of max-salary slots, presumably to bring in Irving and one of his best friends, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant. 

However, Durant’s Achilles injury in the playoffs complicated matters. 

While the Nets are still among the teams whose interest in Durant remains strong as ever despite an injury that’ll likely keep him out for most if not all of the 2019-2020 season, there’s a growing sense among league executives that he’ll re-sign with the Warriors. 

And with the framework for an Anthony Davis trade to the Los Angeles Lakers already agreed upon, Brooklyn will find itself in the market for a max or near-max salary player who provides versatility, experience and can make a difference on the floor. 

Horford checks off all those boxes. 

FAMILIARITY

Horford is given a lot of credit for how he went from being a back-to-the-basket player to one of the best “stretch” bigs in the NBA in a very short period of time. 

His evolution into a three-point threat began under the tutelage of Atkinson, an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks at that time who now is Brooklyn's head coach.

The two maintained a strong relationship even after Horford left for Boston and Atkinson assumed his first head coaching job in the league with the Nets. 

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Atkinson has never held back his praise for Horford’s game, or how impressed he has been with how Stevens utilized him in a variety of ways. 

“Sometimes as coaches we hold back guys sometimes,” Atkinson told reporters prior to a Brooklyn-Boston game in 2017. “I can even see with Brad he's doing even more things than he did Atlanta. I see him handle the ball a lot more at the top of the key and bringing the ball up sometimes. It's impressive. I know Al was thirsty and hungry to kind of embrace that new big man role. And he didn't shy from it. That was the thing that impressed me in Atlanta. When we asked him to do more, get out of his comfort zone, he embraced it, rather than some guys they don't embrace that role. So that's a real credit to him, and then, again, for Brad giving him the freedom to do those things."

SALARY CAP SPACE

When the Nets agreed to trade Allan Crabbe to the Atlanta Hawks, it generated enough salary cap space for the Nets to sign a pair of max-salary players. So with Irving expected to join them this summer, there’s room for Horford as well.

Horford, who became a free agent after opting out of the final year of his deal with Boston that would have paid him $30.1 million for this upcoming season, had made no secret about being open to the idea of taking less money than a max salary for the security of additional years with a title contender. 

It is that latter dynamic in all this - finding a title contender - that league executives believe more than anything else factored in Horford’s decision to opt out of his contract and eventually walk away from a new deal in Boston. 

It's also unclear if the Celtics, well aware that they’re likely to not be in title contention this season, were willing to provide the kind of salary or number of years Horford was seeking with the knowledge that they’re not necessarily built to be among the elite teams even with his return. 

Meanwhile, the Nets already have a young all-star in D’Angelo Russell, who is a free agent this summer, as well. They have a young big in Jarrett Allen whose presence would allow Horford to play both power forward and center at times, if needed. And while Boston’s offense had its share of ups and downs last season, the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop game between Irving and Horford was strong. 

And while Celtics fans will certainly be disappointed to see Al Horford leave, there’s a lot about where Brooklyn is now that makes a lot of sense for Horford in achieving both his individual as well as team goals going forward.

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Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

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AP photo

Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

The Boston Celtics had their 10-game win streak snapped on Sunday as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 100-99.

It came down to the final buzzer as Marcus Smart's last-second floater hung on the rim, but failed to fall into the basket.

Here are three instant overreactions from the loss, which brings the C's to 10-2 on the season:

1. The C's are starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics have looked out of sync offensively in their last couple of games. Friday night's close call vs. the lowly Golden State Warriors left plenty to be desired, and their struggles in Sunday's loss didn't do much to inspire confidence either as they turned the ball over 14 times.

If we see one or two more lackluster performances like this on the West Coast road trip, it may be time to start counting down the days until Hayward's return. But for now, I'm willing to give the C's talented offensive unit the benefit of the doubt.

2. Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield both are showing they're worth every penny.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Jaylen Brown finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Once again, he was one of Boston's standout performers on the offensive side and is backing up his statement about his game improving.

As for Hield, he continues to reward the Kings for signing him to a four-year, $86 million contract extension last month. The Celtics simply had no answer for the Indiana product, who dropped 35 points while going 7-for-12 in 3-pointers. Hield also drilled a key 3 late in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento come out on top.

3. Semi Ojeleye is the new Steph Curry.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

OK, fine, it may be a SLIGHT overreaction. Still, Ojeleye surprised everyone by going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and tallying 11 points off the bench. He was one of the bright spots in the Celtics' disappointing loss.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

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Getty Images

Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

So. Close. 

Marcus Smart’s potential game-winning floater as time expired hit seemingly every part of the rim, paused for a moment before rolling out as time expired in Boston’s 100-99 loss to Sacramento. 

‘It was a good look in that moment,” Boston’s Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. 

The loss snapped Boston’s 10-game winning streak, in addition to preventing them from being the first team in NBA history to win 11 in a row after dropping the season opener.

Sacramento (5-7), after dropping their first five games this season, have now won five of their last seven with the lone losses being a road game at defending NBA champion Toronto and a controversial defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers.  

After spending most of the first half playing catch-up, the Celtics — in all-too predictable form — swung the game’s momentum in their favor in the third quarter to take a 75-71 lead into the fourth quarter despite the offensive fireworks put on by Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (game-high 35 points). 

In the fourth, Boston’s slim lead didn’t last long with the Kings tying the game at 75 less than a minute into the quarter, only for Carsen Edwards to drain a 3-pointer to put Boston back on top, 78-75.

Things remained close for the rest of the game before Smart’s potential game-winner rolled out as time expired.  

Here are some takeaways from Boston’s one-point loss at Sacramento.

KEMBA IN THE FOURTH QUARTER

We have come to expect the best from Kemba Walker when the game matters most: the fourth quarter. That was not the case on Sunday, with Walker going scoreless in the fourth quarter to finish with just 15 points. You certainly love the season-high nine assists he tallied, but Walker’s greatest impact on this team night-in, night-out is his scoring down the stretch.

BUDDY HIELD 

The Kings gave Hield a four-year contract extension worth as much as $106 million, and he showed on Sunday why he's worth every penny. Time and time again, he came up with one big shot after another while often being draped by Boston's best perimeter defender — and one of the best in the NBA — Marcus Smart.  Hield led all scorers with 35 points on an efficient 14-for-24 shooting performance from the field.

TURNOVERS

One of the biggest keys to the Celtics’ fast start to the season has been their ability to limit their mistakes. They came into Sunday’s game averaging a league-low 11.7 per game. On Sunday, the Celtics committed 12 of their 15 turnovers in the first half alone.

SEMI (OJELEYE) AUTOMATIC

Ojeleye hit a big 3-pointer in the second quarter, capping off a 7-0 Celtics run to bring Boston within four points (36-32) with 6:30 to play in the first half. He would finish the day with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field, including a career-high-tying three 3-pointers. It was indeed a breakout scoring game for Ojeleye who came into Sunday’s game having scored just 14 points in Boston’s 11 games this season. 

THEIS IS NICE

While his play doesn’t necessarily find a home on the Celtics’ highlight reel, there’s no getting around the impact that Daniel Theis continues to make on this team. Usually he does it by excelling at intangibles such as setting screens, boxing out and rolling to the basket. But on Sunday, Theis’s impact was made in the more traditional sense: getting points. He finished with a season-high 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double this season. It was also the second time in the last three games Theis has reached double figures scoring. 

LINE ‘EM UP

The Celtics did not shoot the ball well against the Kings, but their aggressive play offensively led to a number of trips to the free throw line, which was a huge difference-maker in the game’s outcome. For the game, the Celtics were 21-for-24 from the line, compared to the Kings who were just 10-for-12 at the free throw line, which included Richaun Holmes’ game-winning free throws with 13.3 seconds to play. 

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.