Celtics

Danny Ainge reacts to Al Horford joining rival 76ers: 'It's a different era'

Danny Ainge reacts to Al Horford joining rival 76ers: 'It's a different era'

Many Boston Celtics fans were surprised, and perhaps a bit upset, too, when they learned Al Horford had taken his talents to the Philadelphia 76ers in NBA free agency.

Not only did Horford leave the Celtics, he went to one of their top rivals and competitors in the Eastern Conference. Horford also had been Boston's most effective player against Philly over the last two seasons, especially in the Celtics' second-round playoff win against the 76ers in 2018.

Throughout most of the league's history, a player of Horford's caliber leaving one team to join one of its hated rivals would be a huge deal. But with today's players changing teams so often, it's not really surprising that there hasn't been much of an uproar around Boston over Horford's decision.

“It’s a different era,” Ainge said Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher and Rich" radio show. “I can’t imagine that would have ever happened in my time of playing, but it’s a different world that we live in. It doesn’t seem to be those kinds of same rivalries. There’s rivalries with the fans, but sometimes not as much with the players.” 

Horford's potential departure was not talked about much during the season. Many people assumed he would stay, either by exercising his player option or by declining it and signing a new long-term contract with Boston.

Ainge also was asked if Horford's choice to go to the 76ers was a shock. Clearly, he wasn't too surprised.

"No," Ainge said. "I think that Al -- he really likes to play the four (power forward) more than the five (center). He liked playing with Aron Baynes. He didn't mind playing some five, but he prefers playing the four and I think that going to Philadelphia will allow him to be exclusively at the four."

Horford should see a ton of time at power forward in Philly as long as superstar center Joel Embiid is healthy. However, Embiid has battled injuries his entire career and durability is not one of his best talents. He's never played more than 64 games in any of his three pro seasons. So, Horford might actually end up playing a decent amount of center with the Sixers.

The main thing for Horford in Philly is being able to win a championship. He's 33 years old and has never won a title. The 76ers, with Horford in the fold, arguably are the favorites to win the Eastern Conference next season.

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NBA Rumors: Romeo Langford will be cleared for full basketball activities by start of Celtics training camp

NBA Rumors: Romeo Langford will be cleared for full basketball activities by start of Celtics training camp

With Celtics training camp set to begin on October 1, there is a bit of good news on one of the team's first round rookies. 

According to Keith Smith, Romeo Langford, who missed all of Summer League recovering from thumb surgery, will be cleared for full basketball activities by the start of camp. 

Langford is the youngest of the Celtics first round picks and arguably the player who needed the most reps during Summer League to get ready for his rookie season in the NBA. While those Summer League reps can't be regained, Langford will at least won't have to miss extra time getting acclimated to his new team. 

In early August, Langford told Tom Westerholm that his thumb was "basically" back to normal, but he hadn't participated in any contact activities. So over the past month-and-a-half, Langford has been healthy enough to continue to work on his jump shot, which the Celtics have begun to overhaul with a ping pong paddle

The Celtics will have to deal with a relatively uncertain future following Kyrie Irving and Al Horford's departures and the arrival of Kemba Walker. They'll need to hit on their draft picks in order to build a young core that can either contend with Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart or one that can be exchanged for a superstar talent that will. Having Langford ready to go at the start of training camp is at least a step in the right direction. 

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who will be the Celtics' most impactful rookie?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who will be the Celtics' most impactful rookie?

When the Boston Celtics open training camp next month, they will have a whopping eight first-year players on the court. That number will include four drafted rookies, two summer league standouts on camp invitations, an undrafted two-way player, and a European import.

In the fourth installment of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our NBC Sports Boston panel to pick which of those rookies will have the biggest impact on the Celtics during the 2019-20 season.

Boston drafted four rookies in Romeo Langford (14th overall), Grant Williams (22), Carsen Edwards (33), and Tremont Waters (51). They later signed undrafted swingman Max Strus to one of their two-way deals, while summer league standouts Javonte Green and Tacko Fall are coming to camp with a chance to compete for a final roster spot. The Celtics also signed French 7-footer Vincent Poirier to add another body to their frontcourt.

That’s a lot of youth and inexperience but, then again, only four Celtics players have more than three years of NBA experience overall in Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, and Enes Kanter. Which is to say that there will be plenty of opportunities for younger players to make an immediate impact if they prove themselves ready for immediate minutes.

Typically, you might lean towards the lottery pick but Langford missed all of summer league while rehabbing from thumb surgery and will be playing a bit of catchup when camp opens.

Given Boston’s new-look frontcourt following the departure of Al Horford and Aron Baynes, it would seem a solid bet to suggest that Grant Williams or Poirier might have the clearest path to contributing. As you’ll read below, our panel leaned heavy in that direction and we’d probably be inclined to agree with their pick.

But we could also make the case for Edwards, an elite bucket-getter at the college level who showed at summer league that he’s not bashful about getting up shots. The departure of Terry Rozier could open an opportunity for backup guard minutes and if Edwards can give a little offensive jolt to the second unit, he could carve out minutes.

Scoring against rotation NBA players won’t be as easy as it was against rookies and roster hopefuls at summer league but Edwards can create his own shot, brings some rugged defense, and will have a chance to stake his claim for backcourt minutes.

Abby Chin: Grant Williams

The Celtics need all the help they can get in the frontcourt. The opportunity is there. And I feel like there’s a lot of hype surrounding the smart, versatile, if a little undersized, Tennessee product. I’m expecting big things.

 

A. Sherrod Blakely: Grant Williams

The team's lack of depth and overall uncertainty in the frontcourt means all their bigs, Grant Williams included, will get a chance to play. He won't wow us with his numbers but his basketball savvy will come in handy on some nights and play a role in the Celtics winning more games than most anticipate.

 

Max Lederman: Grant Williams

Williams already has an NBA body (strength wise, at least) and is a smart, winning player. I was also really impressed with his willingness to let the game come to him in summer league, which shows me he'll be fine in whatever role the team asks him to play. He's also a concrete wall setting screens.

Countdown to C's Camp: Awards predictions>>>

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