Celtics

Replacing Al Horford not the average challenge for the Celtics

Replacing Al Horford not the average challenge for the Celtics

BOSTON — When the news of Al Horford’s departure to Philly began to spread, there was a sense of mixed emotions for most of the Boston Celtics. 

As much as they will surely miss Horford, they knew Big Al well enough to know that the decision was one made with careful thought and consideration. 

But that doesn’t change the fact that him latching on with the Philadelphia 76ers was a double-whammy in weakening their roster while significantly bolstering the title hopes of a rival. 

And so on the eve of the first meeting against Philly with Horford in tow on Wednesday, it only magnifies the loss of Horford being anything but an average blow.

Kyrie Irving’s decision to sign on with the Brooklyn Nets certainly hurt Boston’s depth in terms of talent, but to lose him and gain Kemba Walker significantly softens the loss. 

But in losing Horford, Boston finds itself with little choice but to go with a bigs-by-committee approach heading into Wednesday’s season opener at Philly. 

And of the bigs in that mix, none can defend or stretch the floor beyond the 3-point line the way Horford did for years in Boston. 

Marcus Smart is the longest-tenured Celtic, having seen lots of teammates come and go through the years. 

But Horford’s decision to opt-out of the final year of his deal in Boston and re-sign with Philadelphia admittedly caught him off guard. 

“In a way, yeah, but not really,” Smart said when asked if he was surprised Horford signed with the Sixers. “He stayed in the East. They’re a championship-contending team. They’re really good. Al wants to win. He gave his time here and he felt it was time for a new chapter in his life.”

Jaylen Brown, who recently agreed to a four-year deal worth as much as $115 million, said he has not spoken to Horford since he signed with Philly but quickly added, “But I always wish him the best. That’s my guy."

Brown quipped, “He’s probably sitting back somewhere, icing his knees. That’s my guy.”

While many Celtics fans were stunned when Horford opted out of his contract with Boston and signed elsewhere, Horford’s decision to leave did not come as a surprise to Brown. 

“Not a lot surprises me; the NBA is crazy,” Brown said. “It wasn’t that I was expecting him to leave, but I wasn’t surprised that he did. Everybody has to do what’s best for them. Al’s been in this league a long time; he’s a vet. He earned every paycheck he’s gotten. I wasn’t surprised he went and took care of his family.”

The Celtics will see first-hand Horford’s impact on both ends of the floor — not so much in what he does but what his presence opens up for the Sixers and their All-Star center Joel Embiid. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will counter with a variety of big men that Boston will be counting on to help soften the blow of losing Horford.

But no one within the Celtics organization is disillusioned to believe that the loss of Horford will be easily filled by one of the players that comprises Boston’s bigs-by-committee group. 

“Al was a great guy; he taught us young guys a lot when he was here,” Boston’s Daniel Theis, in the running to start at center for Boston on Wednesday, told NBC Sports Boston. “None of us are going to go out there and be Al. That’s not who we are. We just have to do things a little differently now that he’s not here; that’s all.”

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How Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford and Tremont Waters fared for Red Claws on Friday

How Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford and Tremont Waters fared for Red Claws on Friday

The Maine Red Claws had plenty of star power for Friday night's game vs. the Iowa Wolves. 

Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters and Romeo Langford each suited up for Maine in its 127-121 victory. It marked Edwards' first game with the Red Claws, as well as both Tacko Fall and Romeo Langford's first game back from injury.

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.

Here's how the four Celtics rookies performed:

TACKO FALL

Tacko made his mark in his 14 minutes played on Friday night. The 7-foot-5 phenom contributed 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting while bringing down 5 rebounds.

CARSEN EDWARDS

Edwards was solid in his first game in a Red Claws uniform as he racked up 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting (2-for-9 from 3-pt).

ROMEO LANGFORD

Langford was slow out the gate, but picked it up in the second half to finish with 8 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds. The Celtics' No. 14 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft will look to simply stay healthy going forward, as he's dealt with a nagging ankle injury all season.

TREMONT WATERS

Waters, the G League Player of the Month for November, was relatively quiet in this one. The LSU product dropped 8 points while adding 3 assists in 27 minutes.

Also with standout performances were Yante Maten (26 points, 16 rebounds), Kaiser Gates (17 points, 7 rebounds), Bryce Brown (15 points, 4 assists) and Justin Bibbs (12 points, 6 rebounds).

Next, the Red Claws will take on the Grand Rapids Drive on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Celtics Talk Podcast: What is your level of confidence with this Celtics team?

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Celtics Talk Podcast: What is your level of confidence with this Celtics team?

Ahead of a strange five-day break in mid-December, the Boston Celtics are sitting at 17-7. But it's hard to figure out exactly how confident to be in this team.

On the one hand, the squad has certainly surpassed expectations to kick off the season. They have been dominant at the TD Garden and did have a 10-game home winning streak to start the campaign.

However, the C's just dropped two close games in a row to other Eastern Conference powers, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers. Do those losses mean that the confidence in the Celtics that many were feeling to start the season should wane?

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.

On the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, Chris Forsberg, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Abby Chin all weighed in on how confident they currently are in the Celtics. And despite the team's mini losing streak, they all are still fairly confident in the squad.

Chin gave the team a 7-of-10 confidence rating. She cited the performance of the Celtics' bigs against the 76ers and the "flashes" the team has shown this season as the primary reasons for that.

I feel like the Celtics bigs, Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter, did a serviceable job against Joel Embiid and held their own on the offensive end, and that gave me a lot of confidence in this team. I think that there's no way you're going to get that kind of game from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on the same night maybe ever again in their careers in what they put up against the Sixers. And I still think we see flashes of what this team can be here and there which is why I'm excited about them.

Blakely was a bit more non-committal on a rating, and instead gave a range of somewhere between 7 to 8 with 8.5 being their ceiling.

I see two different teams. I see a team when they're complete and I see a team when they're incomplete. When they're incomplete, I'm with you, they're a 7. They were incomplete against Philly. When you have a healthy Marcus Smart and a relatively healthy, good-to-go health-wise team, they're an 8.

Blakely also called the Celtics "a good team" and said that if every team in the Eastern Conference was fully healthy, his top two teams would be the Milwaukee Bucks and the Celtics.

Hear Forsberg's confidence in the Celtics along with more analysis from Blakley and Chin on the latest episode of "The Celtics Talk Podcast," which drops every week on YouTube and as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

BLAKELY: Could Marcus Morris be on the move from the Knicks?>>>

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.