What Al Horford's departure would mean for the Celtics

What Al Horford's departure would mean for the Celtics

The staggering implosion of the Celtics continued Tuesday night with news that hours after formally opting out of the final year of his deal, Al Horford was preparing to explore outside offers in unrestricted free agency. 

What’s most jarring is how quickly the tenor of the Horford situation changed. The opt-out was expected but all indications were that Horford desired to remain in Boston and was on board with a potential youth movement. But by Tuesday evening, reports started emerging that Horford might be seeking a deal that was longer or more lucrative than what Boston was willing to offer.

A handful of knee-jerk reactions: 

* While nothing about the fallout from a disastrous 2018-19 season should surprise us at this point, the idea that the Celtics could see both Kyrie Irving and Horford walk away this summer is still staggering. And, even if the Celtics have simply resigned themselves to a youth movement, it’s still a shocking changeup for a team that entered the offseason seemingly ready to swing for the fences with a roster potentially headlined by Irving and Anthony Davis.

* In the aftermath of Los Angeles winning the Davis sweepstakes and with all signs pointing to Irving’s departure, it seems fair to wonder if the Celtics were simply leery of giving 33-year-old Horford the years and money he desired as the team braced for a youth movement. If the plan is to build around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, it’s harder to commit to paying Horford until age 37. 

* That said, the Celtics’ chances of being competitive are radically different without Horford. With the veteran big man and his ability to check top Eastern Conference big men Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Celtics had a puncher’s chance in Golden State’s redshirt year. Now? It almost feels like Boston’s best path is to let the kids run free and hope a year in the driver’s seat accelerates their development.

* The question now is how do the Celtics move on from Horford? They could try to facilitate a sign-and-trade in hopes of recouping assets (a team like Houston would certainly be intrigued by adding Horford in their relentless quest to get over the hump out west). Or if Horford desired to sign with a team with cap space, the Celtics could simply renounce their rights and start freeing cap space that they might not use until further down the road.

* If the Celtics renounce the rights to all their free agents, they can get to roughly $27.8 million in cap space this summer — but that also assumes they use all three of their draft picks and retain Semi Ojeleye. The team likely isn’t in any rush to use cap space and might instead be tempted to ink one-year deals that would allow the team to seek top-tier talent in free agency starting in the summer of 2020.

Still, it’s a shocking twist to a drama-filled year for the Celtics. Two years ago it was fair to wonder if the Celtics were set up for a decade of contention. Now the future is far murkier. And, optically, they’ve got to repair their image as star players flee for greener pastures.

For more on Irving, Horford, the draft and the future of the Celtics, listen to the latest Celtics Talk Podcast with Celtics Insiders A. Sherrod Blakely and Chris Forsberg and guest Jeff Goodman of Stadium:


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Celtics Talk Podcast: Season preview; breaking down the opener vs. 76ers

Celtics Talk Podcast: Season preview; breaking down the opener vs. 76ers

Our crew that covers the Celtics has you covered as we preview the season and look ahead to Wednesday's opener in Philly against the Sixers.

2:00 - Kyle Draper, Chris Forsberg, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Brian Scalabrine give their expectations for the Boston Celtics this season. 

6:00 - How big of a year is this for Jaylen Brown? What do we see happening with his contract? 

9:00 - What expectations do we have for Jayson Tatum?

12:00 - What level can we expect Gordon Hayward to return to?

14:00 - Abby Chin hosts ‘Rookie Watch’. Where our crew debates which rookie will have the biggest impact for the Celtics this season. 

19:30 - Paul Hudrick covers the Sixers for NBC Sports Philadelphia. He joins the crew to preview the Celtics-76ers opening night matchup. (21:00) How does Al Horford fit into the mix with the 76ers? (22:00) How much pressure is on Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid? (27:00) How do people in Philadelphia feel about the Boston Celtics this season?


Should Kanter start or come off the Celtics bench?

Should Kanter start or come off the Celtics bench?

BOSTON -- Enes Kanter is easily the most accomplished big man among the consortium of bigs the Celtics collected over the summer. 

And while his role will be an important one, there are plenty of indicators pointing towards Kanter beginning the season as a key performer coming off the Celtics bench. 

The 6-foot-11 center came off the bench in all three of his preseason appearances  Kanter averaged 17.2 minutes, 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds, along with shooting 53.3 percent from the field in the three games. 

From the time Kanter signed with Boston, the Celtics have made no secret about him playing a significant role as a scorer in the low post. 

“He just knows how to score around the basket,” Kemba Walker told NBC Sports Boston. “As long as I’ve been in the league, that’s what Enes does; he’s a scorer, for sure.”

His strength and Boston’s need for more scoring at the rim led to many assuming he would be the starting center. 

But coach Brad Stevens has hinted on multiple occasions that he sees Kanter being most useful coming off the bench - something Kanter says he’s on board with, if that’s what Stevens wants to do. 

“Throughout my career, I play as a starter and as a player coming off the bench,” Kanter told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m OK either way.”

The eight-year veteran has appeared in 583 regular-season games, with 216 of those as a starter. 

That’s why the idea of starting or being a key reserve doesn’t change anything for him as far as how he approaches games. 

“If we’re winning, everything is cool,” Kanter said. “I know where coach is going. Obviously, first unit everybody can score. With me and [Marcus] Smart with the second unit, we can come in and … we have another level to go to.”

According to Hoopsstats.com, the Celtics averaged 38.4 bench points last season, which ranked 10th in the NBA. 

With Terry Rozier in Charlotte via sign-and-trade, Marcus Morris in New York and Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward back in the Celtics’ starting lineup, Boston’s second unit will look dramatically different than a year ago. 

Kanter coming off the bench provides the Celtics with a legit, proven scorer with the second unit with career averages of 11.7 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.

Starting or not, the focus for Kanter remains the same - make an impact as soon as he can once he enters the game. 

Achieving that becomes easier if there’s a heightened level of comfort with his teammates. It's something Kanter has made a priority in his first training camp with the Celtics. 

“We know how to score the ball, how to play basketball,” Kanter said. “For the preseason the most important thing for us is to build that chemistry. Whenever we go out there, we’re trying to communicate, we’re trying to trust each other and try to get used to playing with each other. 

Kanter added, “That’s the most important thing. Off the court is so important. That’s going to make us better teammates, better friends. So, right now, all I care about what’s going on off the court. Once we get in there, we’ll be fine.”

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