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.

Click for the latest Eastern Conference title odds>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Enes Kanter clowns Kendrick Perkins over bold Celtics trade proposal

Enes Kanter clowns Kendrick Perkins over bold Celtics trade proposal

Here's your friendly reminder that NBA players aren't oblivious to pre-deadline trade chatter.

Former Celtics big man and current ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins tweeted his belief Thursday that if Boston wants to take the next step, it needs to acquire a legitimate center.

Perkins' suggestion: Trade Gordon Hayward to the Oklahoma City Thunder for big man (and former Perkins teammate) Steven Adams.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Guess who doesn't think the Celtics need a big man upgrade? Current big man Enes Kanter.

Neither participant is really at fault here; Perkins is entitled to dish out hot takes an analyst, while Kanter is entitled to disagree with Perkins' hot takes, especially when they suggest Kanter isn't good enough.

As for the take itself: Perkins isn't the first person to suggest the Celtics should add a big body ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline to combat Eastern Conference behemoths like Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Milwaukee's Brook Lopez.

The C's reportedly have kept tabs on big men like Andre Drummond and Danilo Gallinari, too, so this general scenario isn't out of the question.

Whether Boston would trade Hayward for Adams straight-up is a different story. Adams is averaging 11.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game as OKC's rock-solid rim protector but is due $27.5 million next season with a 7.5 percent trade kicker, and the Celtics reportedly are unwilling to part with any members of their "core," which presumably includes Hayward.

We'll find out between now and Feb. 8 whether Kanter or Perkins gets the last laugh.

Click here to listen and subscribe to The Enes Kanter Show Podcast:


Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Timberwolves exec makes strong declaration on Karl-Anthony Towns' future

Timberwolves exec makes strong declaration on Karl-Anthony Towns' future

Apologies to NBA fans hoping their team would trade for Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Karl-Anthony Towns. It doesn't sound like the T-Wolves have any desire at all to move the talented center.

Towns signed a five-year, $190 million supermax contract extension with the Timberwolves in September of 2018. Normally, players with lots of term left on their deal are not talked about in trade rumors, but that hasn't stopped speculation over Towns' future in Minnesota.

For example, The Athletic reported in December the Golden State Warriors "have been monitoring Karl-Anthony Towns’ situation in Minnesota."

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, who was hired by Minnesota in May of 2019, made it quite clear in recent comments made to ESPN's Eric Woodyard that Towns isn't going anywhere.

"Karl-Anthony Towns is as untouchable as they come. He's the best player on our team and he's the guy we're building around. Everything we do is to help him become the best player and to help us become the best team we can be. He's a special talent that we're going to do anything possible to help him achieve his highest potential."

The Timberwolves have reached the playoffs only once since Towns' 2015-16 rookie season. Minnesota enters Thursday in 13th place in the Western Conference standings and 5.5 games out of a playoff spot. The T-Wolves haven't surrounded Towns with enough talent to complete in the West. Some of the reasons for that include poor drafting, trades that haven't worked out and the fact that Minnesota is not a popular free-agent destination for stars. Andrew Wiggins also has fell short of expectations after he was acquired as the centerpiece of the Kevin Love trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014.

Towns is the type of player you unload many quality trade assets to acquire. He's averaging 26.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game this season, while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range. He's also just 24 years old and has a skill set rarely seen from a player listed at 6-foot-11 and 248 pounds.

The Timberwolves would be foolish to trade him. He's absolutely the type of player a franchise builds around, as Rosas noted in his comments to Woodyard. He's also signed long-term, so there's no pressure of upcoming free agency to force the T-Wolves' hand.

There are plenty of teams that would benefit from additional center depth for the playoffs, including the Boston Celtics. Towns, at least right now, doesn't seem to be a realistic option for those teams. 

Blakely: Walker here to get Brown and Tatum 'to another level'