BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics knew they were going to lose Kryie Irving via free agency this summer, but Al Horford’s departure caught them by surprise. And the fact that teams knew Horford would be available, and had some big money offers ready to go, reportedly caused the Celtics to raise a bit of a stink about the situation.
Horford opted out of his $30.1 million option with the Celtics and became an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 33-year-old big man and the Celtics were expected to hash out a new deal that would have kept him in Boston longer — and at a cheaper annual salary. But a few days later, reports began to surface that Horford was gauging interest from other clubs, and had some multi-year deals that were too pricey for Boston to match.
Horford signed a four-year, $109 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers just a few hours after NBA free agency tipped off on June 30. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Celtics called foul on the way other teams pursued Horford this summer.
“The Celtics were, from what I am told, one of the teams that kind of stomped their feet with what they thought was tampering,” Windhorst said on the Hoop Collective podcast with Jackie MacMullan and Tim MacMahon. “What happened with Horford, from what I am told, really upset the Celtics. They were thinking they were going to be able to negotiate with him, talk to him about a new contract and all of a sudden it was like, he already knew what his market was and what was out there.”
Essentially, the Celtics were mad about “business as usual” in the NBA, where tampering occurs roughly every 30 seconds. MacMullan found Boston’s accusations of tampering to be silly.
“We all know how this works. Everybody tampers,” she said. “How was it that Kemba Walker all of a sudden was going to the Boston Celtics? Shenanigans. They had their chance with Al Horford.”
The Celtics know this, too. But losing Horford stung, and raising a stink lets other teams know they’re on to their shenanigans. The same shenanigans the Celtics likely use when free agency hits.
Nothing will likely come from this, aside from adding a little more juice to the Celtics-76ers rivalry.