Report: Al Horford ‘never really wanted to leave' Celtics


Al Horford's NBA life is coming full-circle.

The veteran big man is back with the Celtics after Boston's new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens acquired him in a trade that sent Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Horford's first stint with the Celtics from 2016 to 2019 ended when he signed a four-year contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, paving the way for Walker to come to Boston.

But in an ideal world, it sounds like Horford would have preferred to re-sign with the Celtics.

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"Horford is certainly thrilled with being back in Boston," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said on the latest episode of "The Woj Pod." 

"He never really wanted to leave, but financially it made sense for him to go do that deal with the Sixers."

Stevens added in a video conference Monday that Horford is "really excited to be here," and the veteran big man expressed a similar sentiment on Instagram after the trade went down.

Philly offered Horford a $109 million contract with $97 million guaranteed that would have made him the Celtics' second-highest-paid player behind Gordon Hayward had he signed the same deal with Boston. While Horford was still a quality player at the time and one year removed from an All-Star campaign, it was hard for the Celtics to justify paying him over $27 million per year at age 33.

Forsberg: What Kemba-Horford trade means for C's going forward

The C's are in better financial position to pay Horford on the tail end of his contract, however: They'll save nearly $10 million in cap space this season paying Horford $27 million instead of Walker $36.6 million, while only $14.5 million of Horford's 2022-23 salary is guaranteed before he hits free agency.

Horford played just 28 games for the Thunder last season and turned 35 in June, so he likely be more of a role player than the "third star" he was when he first arrived in Boston. But he should be an important mentor to young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and hopefully can improve the team's chemistry after a frustrating 2020-21 campaign.

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