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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NBA Rumors: GMs in favor of play-in tournament when season resumes

NBA Rumors: GMs in favor of play-in tournament when season resumes

On Thursday, the NBA took another step toward figuring out the best way to return to action.

Commissioner Adam Silver held a conference call with the league's general managers to review a survey that was delivered to teams last week. In the survey, GMs voted on potential formats to resume play.

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reports about 75 percent of GMs were in favor of a play-in tournament between bubble teams rather than a World Cup-style group stage. Front-running teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks favored the play-in tourney as it would give them a far easier path to the NBA Finals.

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More from O'Connor:

General managers were surveyed about a 'playoffs-plus' format—either a play-in tournament between the bubble teams to determine the final seeds in the playoffs, or a World Cup–style group stage, which would replace the end of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs with a round-robin format. About 75 percent of teams voted in favor of a play-in tournament, sources said, while 25 percent of teams voted in favor of the group stage.

Although many GMs are in favor of the play-in tournament, that doesn't mean the league will go in that direction.

“Adam [Silver] isn’t taking the results seriously,” a team executive told O'Connor. “Every team is obviously gonna vote for what’s best for them.”

Still, it's a noteworthy development and one that could not only impact how the NBA proceeds with its 2019-20 campaign, but also how it approaches future playoff formats.

For more details from O'Connor, check out his full article here.

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Celtics At Home: Daniel Theis recalls experience playing games without fans

Celtics At Home: Daniel Theis recalls experience playing games without fans

The Boston Celtics hosting a playoff game in an empty arena would be a bizarre experience.

Take it from the guy who's played in front of empty arenas.

Celtics big man Daniel Theis played several years of professional basketball in his native Germany before joining the C's in 2017. On the latest episode of NBC Sports Boston's "Celtics At Home," Theis explained that preseason games often didn't have fans, which created an atmosphere he didn't exactly enjoy.

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"It's definitely weird just thinking about it," Theis told host Brian Scalabrine. "Thinking back for me, playing in Germany in preseason games when you have scrimmages and no fans in there. You hear every voice, every word, every step. It's annoying."

Games without fans could be the NBA's new reality as it aims to safely resume play amid the coronavirus pandemic. Germany's top soccer league, the Bundesliga -- which Theis has been following intently -- is already playing games in empty arenas.

But while Theis wants to get back on the court, he doesn't sound thrilled about playing games without fans again -- especially if that means losing the home-crowd advantage that Boston provides.

"When I watched the soccer games this weekend, it was just -- it didn't feel right," Theis said. "Especially in Boston, when it comes to the playoffs and the fans at TD Garden are so important and so loud ... Then I can imagine now just playing a playoff game with nobody in there, it feels probably like a practice game or scrimmage."

Theis also discussed some of the Celtics' best Zoom guest speakers during Episode Three of "Celtics At Home," which includes guest appearances from C's legends Tommy Heinsohn and Bill Walton.

Check out the full episode of "Celtics At Home" below or on our YouTube page: