Al Horford

Celtics Notes: Walker, Stevens, Fournier, Williams, Smart, Griffin

Kemba Walker, who was traded to the Thunder on Friday, had a “tension-filled” season with former coach and now president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Multiple team sources tell Weiss there was dysfunction in the Celtics‘ locker room and Stevens was seen as being tougher with Walker than other players. Weiss adds that after Gordon Hayward left to sign with the Hornets, he told Stevens that he needed to take a more forceful stance with players for the team to be successful.

Stevens became harder on several players, including Walker, who he frequently criticized for errors on defense. Walker and Stevens often argued, sources add, but they maintained a working relationship and respect for each other.

According to multiple sources, Walker, who signed with Boston two years ago in free agency, became angry about the team’s disappointing season and boos directed at him by Celtics fans. He began talking privately about moving to another team and was willing to accept a trade.

There’s more on the Celtics, all from Weiss:

  • Trading Walker was a first step toward keeping free agent guard Evan Fournier and young center Robert Williams, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. The Celtics hope to bring back Fournier on a long-term deal while creating only a modest tax bill. The trade will also make it easier to add a maximum salary slot for 2022 free agency, as Horford’s contract has just a $14MM guarantee in its final season.
  • Multiple sources said several players were hoping for a coaching change, believing Stevens didn’t hold some of his star players accountable. There was also frustration with the coach’s “college offense” and complaints that players would get stuck in isolation. There seems to be a preference in the locker room for a Black coach with NBA playing experience, and Chauncey Billups, Ime Udoka and Darvin Ham are among the candidates being given second interviews.
  • Marcus Smart stands to inherit the starting point guard role and will hope to re-establish a culture of accountability on defense that he built along with Al Horford, who returns to the team in the Walker trade. Teammates often ignored Smart after Horford left, according to sources, which led to his confrontation with Jaylen Brown after Game 2 of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals.
  • After Blake Griffin‘s buyout with the Pistons, he asked a Celtics player about joining the team and was told there was too much dysfunction.

Celtics Trade Kemba Walker To Thunder

11:20am: The trade is now official, according to press releases from the Thunder and Celtics.

The second-round pick the Thunder will receive in 2025 will be the most favorable of the Celtics’ and Grizzlies’ picks, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets.

The second-rounder that Boston will get in 2023 will be the least favorable of the following three picks that OKC controls:

  • The Thunder’s own second-rounder.
  • The Wizards’ second-rounder.
  • The most favorable of the Mavericks’ and Heat’s second-rounders.

Boston agreed to give Brown a $500K guarantee for next season as part of the deal, according to Marks (Twitter link). The Celtics also generated a $6.88MM trade exception.


8:20am: The Celtics will send point guard Kemba Walker and a pair of draft picks to the Thunder in exchange for Al Horford, Moses Brown, and a future pick, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Boston has been looking for a taker for the veteran guard, who has been injured for much of the two years he spent with the team. A recent report said former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge started shopping Walker after the Celtics were knocked out of the playoffs last summer.

The main incentive for Boston was to get rid of Walker’s contract, which pays him close to $74MM over the next two seasons. He was considered an important addition when he signed a free agent deal with the Celtics two years ago, but a lingering knee injury limited his effectiveness. The 31-year-old missed 29 games this season and averaged 19.3 PPG, his worst scoring numbers in six years, while shooting just 42% from the field.

Walker’s contract includes a 15% trade bonus that will be voided, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). He would have received an additional $3.2MM if the trade had occurred after the league’s new calendar year starts on August 6.

The Thunder will receive the Celtics’ first-round pick this year, which is slotted at No. 16, along with a second-rounder in 2025. Boston will get OKC’s second-round selection in 2023. The Thunder now have three first-round picks in this year’s draft and five of the top 36 choices.

Horford returns to the Celtics two years after leaving for the Sixers in free agency. He spent one year in Philadelphia before being traded to Oklahoma City last December in a cost-cutting move. Horford never found a role on the rebuilding Thunder and played just 28 games before being shut down in late March after the trade deadline passed.

The 35-year-old big man was still effective when he played, averaging 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per night, and should be a welcome addition to the Celtics’ frontcourt. He will make $27MM next season and $26.5MM in 2022/23, but only $14.5MM of that year’s salary is guaranteed. Boston will save about $20MM for next season with the trade, Marks adds, and that figure could rise to $32MM for 2022/23 if Horford is waived before the season starts (Twitter link).

Brown, a 21-year-old center, showed a lot of promise in his second NBA season, starting 32 of the 43 games he played and averaging 8.6 PPG and 8.9 RPG per night. He is under contract through 2023/24, but no money is guaranteed beyond this season.

Today’s trade marks the first major deal for former coach Brad Stevens since he became the Celtics’ president of basketball operations two weeks ago. Wojnarowski notes that it involves Thunder general manager Sam Presti, who has been a friend of Stevens dating back to when he coached at Butler (Twitter link). Woj adds that it’s unusual for trades to take place before the pre-draft combine, but both sides were happy with what they got.

Western Notes: Booker, Paul, Curry, Muscala

Suns star Devin Booker is ready to produce in the playoffs after Phoenix’s six-year postseason drought, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes.

“It’s been a long journey since I’ve been here,” Booker said. “A full six years to get to this point and I know it’s been even longer for the city of Phoenix and this organization to get to this point. So I don’t want to take these opportunities for granted. We gave the fans what they wanted with a playoff berth and now, we want to give them even more of what they asked for.” 

Booker is looking to create something special in Phoenix, finishing with 34 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in a Game 1 victory over the Lakers on Sunday. The team will host Game 2 on Tuesday.

There’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:

  • Suns guard Chris Paul sustained a right shoulder contusion in the club’s game against the Lakers, the team announced (Twitter link). Paul appeared to be in significant pain before exiting for the locker room. He later returned for a brief stint, exited again and returned to finish the game. With Phoenix up 1-0 in the series, it’s an injury to monitor as the team looks to take a 2-0 lead this week.
  • The Warriors owe Stephen Curry more next season, says Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Golden State failed to make the playoffs despite an excellent season from Curry, who averaged a league-best 32 points per game on 48% shooting from the floor and 42% shooting from deep.
  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman examines why veteran big man Mike Muscala wanted to stay with the Thunder this season. Oklahoma City shut down Muscala and teammate Al Horford to focus on its young core late in the season, but Muscala had no interest in leaving the team. “I’m going to get a little emotional probably,” he said as part of a larger quote. “But coming to OKC, it was just like — I’m grateful for it, and it helped me a lot as a man and as a player.”

Northwest Notes: Horford, Muscala, Towns, Vanderbilt, Nuggets

The rebuilding Thunder shut down big men Al Horford and Mike Muscala in the second half of the 2020/21 season, with neither veteran playing a single minute after the March trade deadline. Muscala is now facing unrestricted free agency, while Horford has two years left on his contract, including a partial guarantee in the second year.

Asked today about their respective futures, neither player sounded certain he’d be back in Oklahoma City in ’21/22, but Muscala said he’d “love to be here” going forward, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. Meanwhile, an offseason trade to a team closer to contention seems like a realistic next step for Horford, and he didn’t rule out that possibility.

I’m sure that I’ll be talking with the team and we’ll figure out what’s best,” Horford said, per Mussatto (Twitter link).

Here are a few more notes from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns told reporters today that he won’t require offseason surgery on the wrist he dislocated at the start of the season, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • In a story for The Athletic, Krawczynski takes a deep dive into the long, winding path that Jarred Vanderbilt took to become an NBA regular for the first time this season. The Timberwolves forward, who had logged 120 total minutes in two NBA seasons entering 2020/21, started 30 of the 64 games he played this year, averaging 5.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG on 60.6% shooting in 17.8 minutes per contest.
  • The Nuggets are increasing the capacity of Ball Arena for the playoffs from 4,050 fans (22.1% capacity) to a maximum attendance of 7,750 (42.3%), according to The Denver Post. Denver is one of a handful of teams expecting more fans at postseason games, as coronavirus-related gathering limits begin to loosen in states across the nations.

Thunder Notes: Brown, Dort, Hall, Horford

Thunder center Moses Brown made franchise history with his performance against the Celtics on Saturday, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes.

Brown, 21, finished with 21 points and an astounding 23 rebounds in a losing effort. He recorded the team’s fastest double-double ever (eight minutes, 11 seconds), along with a franchise-record 19 rebounds at halftime.

“He’s got a nose for it and he’s got a motor,” coach Mark Daigneault said of Brown’s impressive rebounding, as relayed by Mussatto. “That’s probably the thing that’s a separator for him. There’s a lot of 7-footers in the NBA, but it’s a small group of people that are his size that play as hard as he does. I think the rebounding is probably a symptom of that.”

Brown also saw his play rewarded with a contract conversion on Sunday, signing a multi-year deal with the team.

There’s more from Oklahoma City tonight:

  • Luguentz Dort suffered a concussion in the team’s game against Boston and has been placed in the league’s designated protocol, the club announced today. Dort tallied 10 points, two rebounds and 16 minutes in the contest.
  • Two-way player Josh Hall will be “squarely in the mix” for the team going forward, Daigneault said, as relayed by Mussatto (Twitter link). Hall has been dealing with knee soreness, but the 20-year-old received over 20 minutes of action on Saturday.
  • As we relayed on Saturday, the Thunder will be shutting down veteran big man Al Horford for the rest of the season. ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link) takes a dive into what’s remaining in Horford’s contract, noting that his salary is guaranteed next season and partially guaranteed the following.

Thunder To Shut Down Al Horford

The Thunder weren’t able to trade Al Horford before Thursday’s deadline, but it appears the veteran big man has played his final game for the franchise, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Horford, 34, won’t play any more this season as Oklahoma City focuses on developing its young talent, sources tell Wojnarowski. He will train at the team’s facility and will remain around his teammates, but won’t be active for games.

Horford has been a positive influence on younger players since being acquired from the Sixers in an offseason deal, and the organization wants to keep him as a locker room presence, Woj adds. General manager Sam Presti has promised to work with Horford and his agent, Jason Glushon, to trade him after the season ends. Horford still has two years and $53MM left on his contract.

The Thunder had been planning to eventually make this move with Horford, a source tells Wojnarowski, but the recent loss of star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is expected to miss significant time with plantar fasciitis, sped up the timeline.

Horford has appeared in 28 games this season and is averaging 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per night.

Mannix’s Latest: Gordon, Celtics, Barnes, Oladipo, OKC, More

Several rival executives tell Chris Mannix of SI.com that the Magic appear committed to trading both Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier this week. Having fallen well out of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, Orlando is prioritizing receiving draft compensation rather than players who could help the team win this season, Mannix writes.

To that end, while Marcus Smart is said to be included in the Celticstrade discussions for Gordon and Fournier, Mannix wonders if the Magic might want to re-route Smart to a third team for more draft capital if Boston and Orlando move forward on that deal.

Mannix also suggests there has been some chatter around the league that the Celtics’ talks with the Magic about Gordon may be a way of pressuring the Kings into more seriously discussing Harrison Barnes, since there hasn’t been much traction with Sacramento to date. The Kings don’t seem to be displaying a strong desire to move key players for draft picks, says Mannix.

Here are a few more items of interest from Mannix’s latest trade rumor roundup:

  • It’s no longer a question of whether or not the Rockets will trade Victor Oladipo, but rather where they’ll send him, according to Mannix, who hears that the Knicks‘ interest in the two-time All-Star may be overstated.
  • The Thunder are “open for business” on deals for Al Horford and George Hill, but haven’t made it down the road in any trade discussions for either veteran. Mannix says Oklahoma City has sought “second-round compensation” for Hill, though it’s unclear if that means one second-round pick or multiple selections.
  • There’s still no serious traction toward any trades involving Cavaliers center Andre Drummond or Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge. Mannix thinks both players will ultimately end up on the buyout market, where they’ll receive significant interest.

Mannix’s Latest: Clippers, Rubio, Magic, Celtics, Horford, More

The Clippers remain in the market for help at the point guard position, with Hornets veteran Terry Rozier among the players who has drawn “strong internal interest,” according to Chris Mannix of SI.com. Mannix adds that George Hill and Ricky Rubio are among the other possible trade candidates in play for the Clippers, who have limited draft assets to use as sweeteners.

The Magic, who are also seeking point guard help, have kicked the tires on Rubio lately as well, per Mannix. That lines up with a Monday report from Jake Fischer of SI.com, who said Orlando had discussed a trade with the Timberwolves that would involve Rubio and Aaron Gordon.

Magic head coach Steve Clifford, who coached Kemba Walker in Charlotte, remains a big fan of the Celtics point guard, but Walker is unlikely to be on the move by March 25, says Mannix.

Here’s more from Mannix’s latest round-up of trade-related rumors:

  • Reports on Monday indicated that a trade is more likely than a buyout for LaMarcus Aldridge, and that the Celtics are focusing on the Spurs‘ big man. However, Mannix cites league sources who believe a buyout is the most likely outcome for Aldridge, and adds that Boston isn’t interested in trading for the veteran Spur.
  • While the Thunder are open to listening to inquires on Al Horford, they’re happy with how he has performed this season and won’t be looking to just give him away, Mannix writes.
  • Rival executives view the Heat as the favorites to land Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, per Mannix.
  • Tom Thibodeau has urged the Knicks‘ front office to be active at the deadline, and the club may pursue upgrades, but so far New York has shown little appetite for moving any of its top young players or taking on long-term salary, Mannix reports.
  • While Michael Porter Jr. is presumed to be off-limits, Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Bol Bol are among the Nuggets believed to be available as the team seeks a complementary piece for Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, according to Mannix.

Pelicans Rumors: Ball, Redick, Bledsoe, Picks, Zion

In the weeks since the first Lonzo Ball trade rumors began surfacing in January, the point guard has busted out of his early-season slump, averaging 16.2 PPG and 5.4 APG on .453/.453/.846 shooting in 18 games. As a result, there’s “little expectation” for now that the Pelicans will move the former No. 2 overall pick in advance of this month’s trade deadline, sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

However, veteran guards J.J. Redick and Eric Bledsoe still appear to be very available, according to Fischer, who hears that Alvin Gentry‘s coaching staff last season lobbied the front office to move Redick. Now, it seems the Pelicans are hoping to do right by the 36-year-old sharpshooter by sending him to a team close to his family in Brooklyn, Fischer writes.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • When the Pelicans dealt Jrue Holiday last fall, the belief was that they’d prefer to receive a package of established players who could help immediately, according to Fischer. When they couldn’t find an appealing deal fitting that bill, the Pels opted for a pile of draft picks instead. Now, with players like Redick and Bledsoe on the block, New Orleans is thought to be after more draft capital. “They just want to accumulate more and more picks,” a league source told Bleacher Report. “They’re in an arms race with OKC.”
  • The prevailing thought is that the Pelicans hope to eventually take advantage of their collection of draft picks by packaging them for an impact player, per Fischer. “Their interest is definitely to consolidate and do something sooner rather than later,” a Western Conference official said.
  • Having received massive packages in exchange for Holiday and Anthony Davis, the Pelicans will have to be realistic about the far more modest return they can demand for a player like Redick or Bledsoe, Fischer writes. “They’re going to have to lower the asking price,” one scout said.
  • The Pelicans are still weighing what position best suits franchise player Zion Williamson, according to Fischer, who says president of basketball operations David Griffin likes the idea of Williamson having the ball in his hands more. So far, the team has focused on playing him at power forward alongside another traditional big man, opting not to add a reliable stretch five to the roster. As Fischer notes, the Pelicans targeted Steven Adams rather than Al Horford in their offseason talks with the Thunder, and they also didn’t seriously inquire on Myles Turner.

Northwest Notes: Finch, Horford, Jerome, Lindsey

Taking over in midstream puts new Timberwolves coach Chris Finch in a difficult spot, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. Not only does he have to forge relationships with his players on the fly, Finch doesn’t have two of his best players available. Malik Beasley is serving a 12-game, league-imposed suspension and D’Angelo Russell is sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury. The fact that the front office passed over assistant David Vanterpool to hire Finch away from the Raptors adds to the awkwardness of the situation.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Thunder big man Al Horford is well aware that he could be dealt again to a contender, as he told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Horford’s contract runs through the 2022/23 season, though the final year is only partially guaranteed. “I think anything is possible,” Horford said of getting moved again. “But I’m not going to dwell on [any trade talk] too much.” Oklahoma City is in no hurry to deal Horford and sees value in keeping the veteran around, Mannix adds.
  • The Thunder recalled guard Ty Jerome from the G League’s Oklahoma City Blue, according to a team press release. Oklahoma City needed more depth in the backcourt due to a groin injury that will keep Hamidou Diallo sidelined through the weekend, coach Mark Daigneault said, per The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto (Twitter link). Jerome, a 2019 first-rounder, made an immediate impact, contributing nine points and seven assists in 22 minutes during the team’s victory over Atlanta on Friday.
  • Former Jazz forward Elijah Millsap has expressed doubt about an NBA investigation concerning his allegation that executive Dennis Lindsey made a racially-charged comment to him during an end-of-season meeting in 2015, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press reports. Millsap said Friday that he has not yet heard from any investigators and wonders if it will be carried out fairly. “I don’t feel he is a racist, but I do know what he said to me,” Millsap said. The investigation will include the sharing of detailed notes taken in the April 2015 meeting that was attended by Millsap and three Jazz officials, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Lindsey has denied the allegation.