Al Horford

Celtics Explore Trading Al Horford

The Celtics are exploring the idea of moving Al Horford, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, who says the team is in the market for another center at this year’s trade deadline.

Horford’s trade value will likely be limited. The 35-year-old has been Boston’s starting center this season and is averaging 10.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 3.6 APG in 36 games (29.0 MPG), but his .442 FG% is a career low and his 3PT% (.285) has dropped significantly. He’s also earning $27MM, a cap figure that won’t be palatable for some clubs.

As Weiss observes, Horford’s $26.5MM salary for 2022/23 is only partially guaranteed (for $14.5MM), which could appeal to teams looking to move a longer-term contract. Still, it’s hard to imagine Boston getting positive value for the veteran big man.

According to Weiss, the Celtics have been “surprisingly open” to discussing both Horford and Josh Richardson, both of whom were acquired during the 2021 offseason. Dennis Schröder, another offseason addition, has also been repeatedly mentioned as a trade candidate, and Weiss confirms that league sources consider the point guard to be available.

The Celtics are believed to be seeking another impact play-maker to complement Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, says Weiss. However, it may be a challenge to put together a package for such a player without relying heavily on draft assets. Due to their uneven development, former lottery picks like Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith don’t have as much trade value as they would have earlier in their careers.

At 23-22, the Celtics are currently the No. 10 seed in the East, hanging onto a play-in spot. Although they’ll likely approach the trade deadline as buyers, it remains to be seen whether the C’s are capable of making any noise in the playoffs. Weiss says multiple people in the locker room have suggested there’s a “lack of desperation” present, with attempts at vocal leadership from players like Brown, Marcus Smart, and Grant Williams sometimes being tuned out.

COVID-19 Updates: Celtics, Lakers, Raptors

Celtics reserve point guard Dennis Schröder has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will not play in today’s Christmas game against the Bucks, the team has announced (Twitter link). He joins eight other Celtics in the protocols.

In a more positive twist, Juancho Hernangómez, Jabari Parker, and Brodric Thomas have exited the league’s COVID-19 protocols and are available for today’s game, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (via Twitter). Guards Marcus Smart, who has been dealing with a hip injury, and Romeo Langford, who has missed time due to an Achilles injury, are also available. Boston center Al Horford is out of the league’s coronavirus protocols but is still working on his conditioning and has been ruled out for the contest.

Here are more COVID-19 protocol updates from around the NBA:

  • Lakers guards Avery Bradley and Malik Monk have left the league’s COVID-19 protocols and will be able to suit up today for Los Angeles against the Nets, per Bill Oram of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Raptors players Khem Birch, Isaac Bonga, and Justin Champagnie have entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols, though Dalano Banton has apparently exited, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN (Twitter link). A total of 10 Toronto players are now in the protocols. Toronto’s previously-scheduled game on Wednesday, against the Bulls, was canceled as a result of the Raptors not having enough players available. The team’s next game is scheduled for tomorrow against the Cavaliers. Lewenberg adds (via Twitter) that Raptors rookie shooting guard David Johnson (calf) and veteran point guard Goran Dragic (personal) also continue to be unavailable.
  • Keep track of all the NBA players within the league’s health and safety protocols on our tracker here.

COVID-19 Updates: Hawks, Blazers, Celtics, Bucks, Nets

Wesley Iwundu, who just signed a 10-day contract with the Hawks on Thursday, has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Iwundu played 23 minutes in the Hawks’ 98-96 victory over the Sixers Thursday night, scoring two points and grabbing five rebounds. ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets that the Hawks will need to sign another replacement player to replace Iwundu — himself a replacement player.

Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu, who made his season debut last week, has entered the protocols as well, Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. In three games this season (22.3 MPG), Okongwu is averaging 10.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 2.0 BPG. The Hawks now have nine players in the protocols.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates:

  • Backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and two-way rookie Trendon Watford have entered the protocols for the Trail Blazers and the rest of the team will now be re-tested, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). DSJ and Watford are the only players currently in the protocols for the Blazers.
  • The Celtics have four new players entering the protocols: C.J. Miles, Justin Jackson, Aaron Nesmith, and Bruno Fernando, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. However, Al Horford, Juan Hernangomez, Jabari Parker, and Brodric Thomas, who’ve all been in the protocols, are listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Milwaukee, so they could be exiting the protocols soon. Until those four are cleared, the Celtics will have 12 players in the COVID-19 protocols — the largest outbreak in the NBA.
  • In addition to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis has exited the protocols for the Bucks, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets. Like Horford and the other Celtics, Donte DiVincenzo, who’s also been in the protocols, is listed as questionable to make his season debut Saturday.
  • Meanwhile, Bruce Brown and James Johnson have exited the protocols for the Nets, but seven others, including star Kevin Durant, remain in the protocols for their game Saturday against the Lakers, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).
  • Warriors rookie Moses Moody has entered the protocols, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Golden State now has four players in the protocols.

Warriors’ Poole, Two Celtics Enter Health And Safety Protocols

Warriors guard Jordan Poole is among the latest players to enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Jared Weiss of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that Celtics forward Grant Williams and one other Boston player have also been placed in the protocols. Shams Charania of The Athletic says (via Twitter) the second Celtic is Al Horford.

If Poole, Williams, and Horford have tested positive for COVID-19, they’ll be sidelined for at least 10 days or until they return two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

The Warriors hadn’t had any players in the health and safety protocols prior to today’s update on Poole, but they faced the Knicks on Tuesday. New York has been experiencing a minor COVID-19 outbreak and placed Kevin Knox in the protocols on Thursday after he logged 20 minutes vs. Golden State.

The Celtics, meanwhile, put Jabari Parker in the protocols on Thursday, so they now have three players affected.

The Warriors and Celtics are scheduled to play on Friday night in Boston, so they’ll likely test and retest all their players today to make sure there are no more positives before they tip off.

Eastern Notes: Randle, Middleton, Celtics, Bogdanovic, Bamba

With the Knicks going through rough times, leadership is essential. However, Julius Randle‘s personality doesn’t lend itself to that role, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Randle, who was signed to a $106MM+ extension, doesn’t fit the mold of a vocal leader and can occasionally be a loner in the locker room, according to Berman.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Khris Middleton suffered a hyperextended left knee on Monday but Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer is optimistic the injury isn’t significant, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets“We’ll know more (Tuesday), but I think there’s some hope that it’s not serious,” he said. “But you’ve got to weigh it and give it time.”
  • Celtics president Brad Stevens needs to shake up the roster, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer opines. Rather than dealing one of his stars, Stevens needs to improve the supporting cast by moving veterans such as Marcus Smart, Josh Richardson and Al Horford or young players such as Robert Williams and Romeo Langford, according to O’Connor, who adds that shooting and play-making should be the top priorities in any potential deal.
  • Hawks swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic, sidelined since late November by a right ankle sprain, has progressed to individual on-court workouts, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Bogdanovic underwent an MRI shortly after spraining the ankle and the team at that time said he’d miss at least two weeks of action.
  • Magic center Mohamed Bamba suffered a right ankle sprain on Sunday, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel reports. It’s unclear how much time Bamba might miss due to the injury, which occurred during the third quarter of the team’s game against the Lakers.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Simmons, Drummond, Horford

After missing nine games due to a case of COVID-19, Sixers center Joel Embiid had a huge game in his first night back on Saturday, racking up 42 points and 14 rebounds. However, he struggled on Monday and again on Wednesday, scoring a total of 29 points on just 7-of-33 shooting in a win over Orlando and a loss to Boston.

Embiid said after Wednesday’s game that he feels like he’s still rounding into form again following his COVID-related absence, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays.

“I would never use it as an excuse but obviously I think it’s going to take me awhile to get back, especially legs and cardio and all that stuff,” Embiid said. “But every single day I got to keep working hard, and keep getting better.”

Head coach Doc Rivers acknowledged after Wednesday’s loss that Philadelphia needs improved shooting from Embiid, but said the issues on offense extend beyond the team’s star center.

“We’ve got to get Joel going,” Rivers said. “We get him going, the whole team gets going. That’s the number one thing. But that’s two games in a row I thought the offense was lackluster. Execution is really bad right now. But, again, I’m not concerned by it. We’re going to get through it. It’s just that we’re dropping games while we’re getting through it.”

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Asked on Wednesday about the Ben Simmons situation, Rivers said it’s not an issue that’s at the front of his mind. I literally don’t even talk about it,” Rivers said (Twitter link via Justin Grasso of “I coach the team and the guys that I can see every day. I let (president of basketball operations) Daryl (Morey) and (GM) Elton (Brand) deal with all of the other stuff.”
  • Speaking to Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire, veteran center Andre Drummond said he has loved his time in Philadelphia so far and dismissed the idea that he ever had any “real beef” with Embiid.
  • Al Horford only spent one season with the 76ers after signing a four-year, $97MM deal with the team in 2019. He wasn’t a fit in Philadelphia and admitted on Wednesday when his Celtics faced the Sixers that 2019/20 was a “difficult year” for him, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “No question about it,” Horford said when asked if his reputation took a hit during his time with the Sixers. “But it’s everything on me. It was my decision to leave [the Celtics], and it was like, ‘How are you going to respond when you’re faced with adversity?’ Being down, being talked down about and those things. I was written off, and I’m glad I got another opportunity in a place where I want to be.”

Atlantic Notes: Horford, Knox, Boucher, Barnes, Anunoby

Offseason re-acquisition Al Horford has been a bright spot for the Celtics, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

At age 35, Horford says he’s used to people labeling him an elder statesman, but he’s not surprised by his strong play.

For me, honestly, I’m kind of used to it because when I was 30 here, I feel like people were bringing it up like, ‘Oh, he’s 30!’ and all this stuff. I play how I play, I’ve kind of been kind — I feel really good, physically. I feel really good. I know where I’m at. I know what I can do. And, yeah, I’m 35, but I feel as long as I’m putting in the work — I am putting in the work — I’m doing everything that I need to do and I feel like I can keep playing at a high level,” Horford said.

Forberg writes that Horford has arguably been the team’s best two-way player to start the season, despite missing the first game after battling COVID-19. He’s averaging a career high 2.4 blocks per game, and his 9.0 rebounds are his highest mark in nine seasons.

Hoford is grateful for the time he spent with the Thunder last season, saying they have impressive medical and performance staffs who helped him get healthy.

[The Thunder medical staff was] great. They just had great support systems, kind of like what we have here now, but they really — looking at my nutrition, helping me with treatments before or after practice, the lift, or the performance stuff, kind of mapping the schedule out and kind of making the player involved in everything that goes into playing the games, which is something that we’re doing here as well,” Horford said.

And that, for me, that year was very beneficial, for me to feel good again, get healthy, and things like that. They have a great program over there. I was really impressed. And they really helped me be in this position, from a basketball standpoint, health-wise.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • In his latest mailbag, Fred Katz of The Athletic says there’s no clear path to Kevin Knox getting minutes for the Knicks anytime soon. Katz notes that Knox is behind Obi Toppin on the team’s depth chart, and even if they wanted to utilize Knox’s three-point shooting, the Knicks would probably be more inclined to play rookie Quentin Grimes, who Katz says is a superior defender. Knox will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season if the Knicks tender him a qualifying offer, which seems pretty unlikely at this point. If they choose not to, he’ll become unrestricted.
  • Chris Boucher has had a poor start to the season for the Raptors, but he’s starting to turn things around, according to Michael Grange of Boucher says it’s been tough to get acclimated with his new teammates after undergoing hand surgery in the preseason. “I was doing so good in training camp, and then you get hurt in preseason (and) the team gets chemistry (when) you’re out of it,” said Boucher, “you’ve got to find a way to introduce yourself to the team. … I’m sure a lot of people were disappointed in the way that I’ve been playing and what I’ve been giving this year. I have a good circle and they help me stay within myself and focus on the right things, knowing every day is a new day and coming in with the same energy and being ready to change some games.” Boucher was one of the most improved players in the league last season and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
  • Strong play from Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby suggests a bright future for the Raptors, according to Dan Devine of The Ringer. Devine provides stats and video breakdowns of the two Toronto forwards with enormous wingspans.

Celtics Notes: Parker, Horford, Langford, Nesmith

Jabari Parker didn’t really explore other options after the Celtics waived him last week, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. Parker was cut loose so the team could avoid paying a $100K guarantee that would have taken effect with the season opener. He re-signed with Boston after clearing waivers and said it’s where he wants to play.

“I just knew (Boston) was the right place to be. I knew that,” Parker said. “This is a winning team and iron sharpens iron, so if anything, I’m going to get better here playing against the guys every day, being around true competitors, and obviously get a chance for me to learn. So this is just a great situation just because I’m just grateful for it and I’m counting my blessings.”

Parker didn’t play in the team’s first three games, but he got a chance Monday night with Al Horford sidelined by injury. He scored 13 points in 17 minutes and made a case for a larger role providing instant offense off the bench. No matter what happens, Parker is happy to get a second chance in Boston after three years of bouncing around the league.

“It’s the journey that I chose, so definitely appreciative of the Celtics organization, just my teammates always being supportive,” he said. “Regardless of anything, I’m around good people, I’m around a great team, and I’m just grateful for the moment.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Horford has been providing more than just veteran leadership since rejoining the Celtics, notes Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston. The 35-year-old big man is averaging 14.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in his first two games. “I love everything about Al,” Jayson Tatum said. “How he plays the game, how he goes about his duties on a day-to-day basis. He’s a true professional. I’m sure everyone’s going to say the same thing about him. He’s just a great teammate and a great person to be around.”
  • An MRI on Romeo Langford‘s left calf didn’t show any damage, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Coach Ime Udoka said there’s hope that Langford won’t have to miss much time.
  • Aaron Nesmith is off to a rough start in his second NBA season, going scoreless in his first three games and missing all 10 of his shots, but Udoka told reporters that he hasn’t lost confidence in what Nesmith can do, tweets Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “We told him to take his time, slow down, and play like he did in the summer,” Udoka said. “… With Romeo being out, there’s opportunity for him there. So just got to slow down and take the shots that he always has.”

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Sixers, Brown, Richardson, Walker

The ongoing Ben Simmons drama, including a suspension, has sucked some of the energy out of the Sixers’ opener, coach Doc Rivers admitted to Brian Windhorst of ESPN and other media members. Simmons was suspended for the opener after refusing to participate in a practice drill.

“It’s a predicament that we’re in and that part is no fun. It really isn’t,” Rivers said. “We get to play right now and Ben is not. I want Ben to be playing. That’s his job.”

Simmons will be fined $330K for missing Wednesday’s game, increasing his fines for missed games — including the preseason — to more than $1.7MM.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, who had been sidelined due to a positive COVID-19 test, will be in the starting lineup against the Knicks tonight, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Brown said he experienced “some mild symptoms for the most part” and used meditation to recover from the virus. He’ll have an inhaler at the ready if he has any breathing issues. Al Horford, who also recently contracted COVID-19, remains sidelined to start the season, though head coach Ime Udoka said the veteran center is doing well physically.
  • Celtics guard Josh Richardson will not play in the opener due to a migraine, the team’s PR department tweets. Richardson was acquired in a trade with Dallas in late July.
  • New York native Kemba Walker is thrilled to be playing for his hometown team at last, Bontemps writes in a separate story. He’s hoping to prove the knee issues that plagued him with Boston won’t be a major factor with the Knicks. “Perfect timing. [I’m] really motivated,” he said. “Super excited that these guys have belief in me. I just need somebody to believe in me.”

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Irving, Brown, Horford

The Sixers are preparing to use the same strategy whether Ben Simmons is part of the team or not, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The situation is surrounded by uncertainty even after Simmons made a surprise appearance in Philadelphia Monday night, then met with management on Tuesday. He still wants to be traded and the Sixers have promised to oblige, but no traction has been reported on any potential deal.

Coach Doc Rivers is downplaying the level of distraction, telling reporters, there’s not a Plan A and Plan B depending on whether Simmons is involved. “It’s only a Plan A,” Rivers said. “What we run, you don’t change just because one guy comes on the floor.”

Simmons’ absence has left a void at point guard because he typically initiates the offense when he’s on the court. Injuries have delayed Rivers’ plans to name a starter as Tyrese Maxey, who has adductor tightness, and Shake Milton, who’s dealing with a sprained ankle, both missed Monday’s preseason game.

“Obviously, spacing is going to change with Ben out there,” Seth Curry said. “But we know how to adjust. Everybody knows how to play basketball. It’s not too different from the stuff we did last year. It’s just trying to execute stuff better.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets star James Harden confirms that he and Kevin Durant were both consulted before management reached the decision not to allow Kyrie Irving to be a part-time player, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Harden says he supports his teammate, but doesn’t want the situation to become a distraction. “Kyrie believes in his beliefs, and he stands firm and strong on that. And for us, we respect it,” Harden said. “We all love Ky. But as far as us, we have a job to do. Individually, myself, I am still wanting to set myself up for a championship. And I feel like the entire organization is on the same path and we are all in this as a collective unit.”
  • Celtics coach Ime Udoka expects Jaylen Brown to be ready for opening night following a bout with COVID-19, tweets Boston writer Mark Murphy. He added that it will be a “tight timeline” for Al Horford to play.
  • Rich Levine of examines the long-term prospects for Celtics second-round pick Juhann Begarin, who will play this season in France.