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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Team USA stunned by Australia, 98-94; Marcus Smart debuts for US

Team USA stunned by Australia, 98-94; Marcus Smart debuts for US

Marcus Smart made his debut for Team USA, which saw its 78-game international winning streak end in a 98-94 loss to Australia early Saturday in Melbourne.

Smart,  who had been bothered by a calf injury throughout training camp as the Americans prepare for the FIBA World Cup next week in China, started and scored seven points, had three assists and one rebound in nine minutes. Fellow Celtics guard Kemba Walker led Team USA with 22 points.

The other members of the Celtics contingent - a.k.a. "Team Shamrock" - Jayson Tatum (five points) and Jaylen Brown (eight points) came off the bench as the US, which had a 10-point lead in the third quarter, lost for the first time since 2006 with NBA players on its roster.

Former Celtics big man Aron Baynes, now with the Phoenix Suns, had 13 points for the Aussies, who were led by a 30-point performance from Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs. 

With an injury to the Los Angeles Lakers' Kyle Kuzma keeping him out of the World Cup, the 12-player US roster is set and it will include all four Celtics. The Americans open against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1 in China.

The last US loss with NBA players was in the 2006 world championship semifinals to Greece, a team that next week will feature NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Team USA enters the World Cup No. 1 in the FIBA rankings 

“They wanted it more than us tonight,” Walker said. “Lesson learned for us.”

 

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2019 FIBA World Cup live stream: How to watch Team USA vs. Australia exhibition

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USA TODAY Sports photo

2019 FIBA World Cup live stream: How to watch Team USA vs. Australia exhibition

After drawing the largest crowd for a basketball game ever in Australia on Thursday (51,218), Team USA and Australia return to Marvel Stadium late tonight (2 p.m. Saturday in Melbourne) to play another tuneup for the FIBA World Cup.

A trio of Celtics - part of "Team Shamrock" for the US - all played key roles in helping the US defeat the Aussies 102-86. Kemba Walker scored a game-high 23 points, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each scored 11. The fourth Celtic on Team USA, Marcus Smart, who hasn't played because of a calf injury, didn't play in that game but has been cleared to return and could be back tonight.

Team Australia includes a former Celtic, Aron Baynes.

The Americans have one more tuneup in Australia, Monday against Team Canada, before the FIBA World Cup opens in China against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1. 

Here's how to watch tonight's game:

When: Saturday, Aug. 24, midnight
TV Channel: NBA TV
Live Stream: Twitch and NBA.com

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