Kemba Walker Trade Was 'Hard,' Al Horford a 'Very Good Player,' Celtics' Stevens Says

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJune 21, 2021

Boston Celtics center Tristan Thompson (13) and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) and Nets guard James Harden (13) watch as Celtics guard Kemba Walker (8) goes up for a backwards shot during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens addressed the trade that sent point guard Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder and brought back big man Al Horford in a press conference Monday.

Stevens, who moved into the role of president June 2, said dealing Walker was "hard" but that Boston was getting a "very good player" in Horford in return.

"This was really hard. Not the ideal first few weeks on the job move," he said. "That's because of the kind of person Kemba is, the kind of professional he is and how good of a player he is, and how good he'll continue to be as a player."

Stevens also talked about the financial flexibility the deal brings the Celtics while noting what Horford brings to the table.

"It was the best deal that we had with returning players," he said. "Not only does Al make considerably less money than Kemba, he's also a very good player."

Stevens also praised Horford's passing, spacing abilities and defense, per Yahoo Sports' Keith Smith.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke down the trade details Friday:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

The Celtics are trading Kemba Walker, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2021 draft and a 2025 second-round draft pick to Oklahoma City for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick, sources tell ESPN.

Dan Feldman of NBC Sports detailed Boston's financial savings:

"Horford earns $9,016,200 less than Walker would have with the Celtics next season. The following season, Horford’s salary is $11,153,300 lower than Walker’s. Just $14.5 million of Horford’s $26.5 million is guaranteed in that last season of his contract, so Boston could get even more savings (though not have Horford)."

Walker, 31, played two seasons of a four-year, $140.8 million contract in Boston after his former team, the Charlotte Hornets, executed a sign-and-trade with the Celtics.

Walker shined at times for the Celtics, but injuries hampered his on-court performance and sidelined him for numerous stretches. He averaged 19.9 points on 42.3 percent shooting, 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds with the C's.

Horford, 35, makes his return to Boston after playing there from 2016 to 2019. The 14-year NBA veteran and five-time All-Star averaged 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for the Thunder this year.

The Celtics finished a disappointing 36-36 this year and fell to the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Walker-Horford trade continued the shake-up since their season concluded.

They parted ways with ex-president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, and Stevens moved from the sidelines into that role.

Stevens must find Boston's next head coach. He did not discuss the coaching search Monday, saying he would not do so out of respect to the candidates involved.

Wojnarowski reported Friday the team hopes to interview three assistant coaches for a second time: Brooklyn's Ime Udoka, Milwaukee's Darvin Ham and the Los Angeles Clippers' Chauncey Billups.