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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Celtics' Robert Williams cleared to return; Kemba Walker unlikely to play vs. Rockets

Celtics' Robert Williams cleared to return; Kemba Walker unlikely to play vs. Rockets

The Boston Celtics' frontcourt depth is about to improve.

Second-year center Robert Williams finally has been cleared to play, C's head coach Brad Stevens told reporters Friday. Stevens noted Williams' minutes will be "very limited" to start.

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Williams has not played since Dec. 6 because of a left hip injury. His return to the lineup, which could come as soon as Saturday night versus the Houston Rockets at TD Garden, should give the Celtics valuable interior defense, another player to throw in pick-and-rolls, and additional rebounding. Williams also is the team's most athletic big man.

One player who isn't expected to return to game action Saturday is point guard Kemba Walker.

Walker hasn't played since the 2020 NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 16. He's missed four straight games with left knee soreness. Marcus Smart has started in his place. 

Click here for our latest 2020 NBA Mock Draft

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2020 NBA Mock Draft 3.0: No clear-cut choice at No. 1

2020 NBA Mock Draft 3.0: No clear-cut choice at No. 1

BOSTON -- With about six weeks of NBA games left to play, there’s a heightened level of uncertainty as to who will be the No. 1 overall pick. 

There is no Zion Williamson in this year’s draft; that is, a player who would be the top pick regardless of who is on the clock. 

This is a draft where the top picks are going to address specific team needs as opposed to most drafts where the value of the early selections is how they enhance a team's overall talent. 

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And just like there’s no clear-cut No. 1 pick, there’s going to be quite a bit of jockeying among NBA teams as far as who will have the best shot at landing one of the top picks. 

That said, here’s the current draft order based on records and the player those respective teams are likely to select. 

Click here for A. Sherrod Blakely's 2020 Mock NBA Draft 3.0.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Rockets-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.