Boston Celtics

Sep 30, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Al Horford (42) is interviewed during media day at the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex. (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

By Ty Anderson,

Had it not been for Kyrie Irving, then-C’s big man Al Horford’s sudden exit from the Celtics would have dominated headlines.

Three years into a max deal signed with the Celtics in 2016, the 33-year-old Horford decided to opt out and hit the open market, where he ultimately signed a four-year deal to join the rival Philadelphia 76ers. But had it not been for Irving (and his exit from Boston), the Summer of Horford could have ended a lot differently, according to No. 42 himself.

Speaking with the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett on Wednesday, Horford detailed everything that went into his decision to leave Boston after three years, as well as joining one of the Green’s bitter rivals in a race for Eastern Conference supremacy.

“After last year ended, we were all disappointed with how everything went,” Horford admitted. “I took some steps back, looking at what direction the franchise was heading and what was going, and we all kind of felt that Kyrie was going to leave. It was like, maybe he’ll stay, but then it was, nah, he’s probably going to leave just based on how everything was.”

Horford went on to mention that it was clear that even if Irving stayed, things would have been tough for all parties involved, as it was clear that the C’s core — with Irving in town on a new deal — simply couldn’t “coexist” on a level that’d make Boston a legitimate championship threat.

Horford also admitted that his move to Philadelphia was about two things: the financial security of another long-term deal (Philly gave him $97 million in guaranteed money on his four-year deal) and competing for the championship Horford is still chasing after as he enters his 13th NBA season. It’s clear he did not believe that either was attainable in Boston, too, with Boston unwilling to go as long as four years, and with their No. 1 (obviously) leaving The Hub.

…But Horford did seemingly admit that things could have been different had he known that Kemba Walker, who joined the Celtics on a max deal as soon as the C’s knew they were losing Irving to the Nets, was coming to town.

“I don’t want to get caught up in the past,” Horford noted, “but, yeah, that would have been totally different.”

In other words, Horford probably would have sacrificed some dollars (Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge originally wanted to hammer out a new three-year deal with Horford) if he was 100 percent sure Walker was coming in as Kyrie’s replacement. I mean, it’s right there in plain sight, even if Horford “doesn’t want to get up in the past.”

That never quite materialized, though, as Horford already had better offers on the open market by the time that Walker committed to the Celtics, and the cap cartwheels would have been too much, even for Ainge and Mike Zarren.

So instead of having a one-two punch with Walker and Horford, the Celtics will now have to combat a Philly frontcourt of Horford and Joel Embiid, beginning with Oct. 23’s Opening Night showdown against (who else but) the Sixers.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.