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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Why Brad Stevens' letter was so important to Semi Ojeleye, Celtics

Why Brad Stevens' letter was so important to Semi Ojeleye, Celtics

Brad Stevens made the effort to create an open dialog with his players, and it didn't go unnoticed.

The Boston Celtics head coach wrote a letter to his team over the weekend following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin last Monday when Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The intent of Stevens' letter was to tell his Black players that while he can't pretend to know their pain, he supports them as they attempt to combat racial inequality and police brutality.

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Stevens' intent rang true for Celtics wing Semi Ojeyele, who joined NBC Sports Boston's "Arbella Early Edition" on Wednesday night to say he appreciated his coach's letter.

"It's everyone's issue," Ojeyele said. "We're all together on this. ... Having him be able to reach out to us -- he didn't have to do that -- to take the time, the thought, the energy to let us know that he's with us in any way that he can help is big. We know that we have his support and we're going to need it if we're going to change this thing."

The Celtics have actively participated in calling for change in the past week: Jaylen Brown helped lead a peaceful protest in Atlanta last weekend, while Marcus Smart, Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier joined a protest Sunday in Boston.

They've been so active in part because they know their coach supports them -- not just with empty gestures but with real conviction, according to Ojeleye.

"For me it just means that he's actually what he talks about," Ojeleye said. "He talks about family, he talks about being together, he talks about having each others' backs in more than just basketball, and this was a great moment for him to show the kind of character that he has.

"Obviously he didn't have to take the time to do that. The letter was real. It was something that, you could tell he took the time to think about, 'How can I show these players I support them?' When he did that, I think everyone knew that Coach has our back. The organization has our back, and the city is thinking about how we can make a change as well."

Check out the video player above to hear Ojeleye's full comments about Stevens.

Danny Ainge reflects on talk with Celtics players after George Floyd's death

Danny Ainge reflects on talk with Celtics players after George Floyd's death

The Boston Celtics are presenting unified front amid the wave of protests that have followed George Floyd's death.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge tweeted Wednesday night that he had a positive phone conversation with his team that led him to observe how proud he is of his players.

Ainge tagged Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye, Enes Kanter, Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward in the tweet, which included the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.

The Celtics have actively participated in protests to demand an end to racial injustice and police brutality after a Minneapolis police officer murdered Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed African-American man, by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

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Brown drove 15 hours to his home state of Georgia last weekend to help lead a peaceful protest in Atlanta,  while Smart, Kanter and Vincent Poirier joined a protest in Boston on Sunday.

Tatum, Ojeleye, Walker and Hayward all have been active on social media calling attention to racial inequality and standing in solidarity with their teammates.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has supported his players' activism, as well, expressing that support in a letter he gave to the players last week.

It appears Ainge also has communicated with his players as the C's continue to show cohesion and unity during a divisive time in America.