Boston Herald – As far as on the court, it’s certain Horford wasn’t interested in playing another hand from the same deck. I asked him if his decision would have been different if Irving had remained.
“I’m not sure that has anything to do with it for me,” Horford said. “I just think that if Kyrie would have stayed, I don’t know if it would have worked. There would have had to be some major changes as far as players, because it was just clear that the group that we had just wasn’t going to be able to coexist.”
And what about if he’d known Kemba Walker was coming. Horford paused.
“I don’t want to get caught up in the past,” he said, “but, yeah, that would have been totally different.”
Longtime Celtics writer Steve Bulpett caught up with old friend Al Horford and the big man had some interesting quotes on the dumpster fire that was the Celtics last year.
Horford reaffirmed what everyone has been saying for the past 6 months; this team just could not gel. Whether you want to blame that on Kyrie being a piss poor leader or on the young guys feeling themselves a bit too much is up to you, but the issue was real.
Kyrie is the guy that openly and bizarrely announced to the media that the Celtics needed a “15 year veteran” to help the team win. Maybe a Sam Cassell or Kendrick Perkins type at the end of the bench could have helped play the role of mentor/player-coach, but this group shouldn’t have needed that.
Lets just kill the Kemba/Horford talk right now too because of the way the NBA cap works in all its mysterious ways, it would have bene just about impossible for the Celtics to fit Kemba and Horford on the team. The only reason they were able to sign Kemba was *because* Kyrie and Horford left, not in spite of it. When one guy leaves it doesn’t automatically open up that salary space under the cap. Infuriating, yet true. The cap is not crap in this league.
The Celtic’s early playoff exit and subsequent gutting is all the more frustrating because of just how talented this team truly was last season.
“I just feel like we had so much talent, just a lot of talent, and we all wanted to do great things. There were just too many of us almost. I just feel like we had so much that it was very, very difficult to essentially keep everybody feeling good and focused on where we wanted to get to. And I do believe that that just kept getting in our way.”
You had 3 All-Stars in Kyrie/Horford/Hayward, a defensive POY candidate in Smart, a couple of future All-Stars in Tatum and Brown and a ton of excellent role players. Except Hayward was coming back from his injury and the ONLY way for him to get right was to play, which obviously took minutes away from Tatum and Brown. Sprinkle in the fact that Kyrie seemingly preferred to play with veterans because the young guys just didn’t “get it” or have the winning experience (despite Kyrie having a grand total of one title). Then you had guys like Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris in contract years playing hero ball trying to get paid. Plus you still had former first round picks like Robert Williams and Guerschon Yabusele trying to carve out roles. To top it all off was Brad Stevens who couldn’t get the team to buy in and Danny Ainge who refused to make any changes to the roster. Thats a recipe for a disaster in hindsight.
Appearing on Anna Horford’s podcast (yes, Al’s sister) Cedric Maxwell actually blames the Celtics more than Kyrie.
“I think the Celtics, for the most part, babied Kyrie too much,” Maxwell said. “When you baby a player for so many times and you’re kissing his ass the whole time, I think, for the most part he has no recourse.”
I mean, he’s not wrong, but still Kyrie is a grown ass man. This isn’t like blaming the parents for spoiling a 5 year old kid. Kyrie is a 27-year-old Duke
graduate participant with eight seasons in the league.
Goddamnit what a waste of an opportunity. The Warriors were on their last legs, Giannis was a one man show, the Sixers weren’t deep enough, LeBron was broken down and in the West, and the C’s just could not get their shit together to make a run. Kawhi Leonard won the title almost singlehandedly in Toronto and I firmly believe a cohesive Celtics squad could have taken the Raptors. Unfortunately that team never figured it out and here we are.
The Celtics aren’t a favorite, a top 5 or even a top 10 pick to win it all in most polls this year because of the talent that left town. The C’s acted swiftly and made the best of a bad situation by bringing another elite talent in Kemba Walker to town, but now Boston goes back to being a plucky underdog rather than a pre-season juggernaut. Maybe thats for the best.