Celtics Week: Defending Horford and a look at what trades Ainge should consider

  • There was absolutely nothing wrong with Al Horford’s decision to miss Monday’s Boston Celtics game to celebrate the birth of his daughter in Atlanta. It’s worth noting that the C’s are 5-5 with a minus-30 rebound differential without Horford this season, though. AP

  • Jae Crowder’s return to the lineup has already helped the Celtics get back on track. AP

  • Cousins Cousins

Monitor staff
Published: 11/29/2016 11:56:03 PM

Al Horford’s absence from the Boston Celtics’ win over the Miami Heat on Monday night had nothing to do with the concussion he suffered earlier this month. He wasn’t due for a rest day. Horford didn’t miss the game because of any physical ailment. Nope, he missed it to spend the night with his wife and their daughter, who was born Sunday night in Atlanta.

Some really heartless people, certainly not candidates for any Father of the Year awards, took exception with Horford’s absence for a game against the five-win Heat. Most notably, 98.5 FM SportsHub radio host Michael Felger suggested Horford should’ve rented a private jet (seriously) to fly to Miami for the game and return to Atlanta to be with his family afterward.

“I like my guys to forsake everything for the team. It’s a little soft,” Felger said on CSNNE on Monday night. “Just go play the game.”

Sure, Horford is a professional basketball player. But he’s a father first. The rest of us would get a day off in the wake of our baby’s birth, no questions asked. And it’s not like Horford missed a game against the Spurs or Cavaliers. He missed a game against the last-place Heat at the end of November.

Felger is probably a huge fan of Tampa Bay Rays star Evan Longoria, who watched the birth of his first-born son via FaceTime while playing baseball in Japan in 2014. I’m guessing that’s the kind of guy Felger wants on his team.

Horford’s sister, Anna, was quick to tell Felger he can “(expletive) right off” on Twitter on Monday night, saying “it hasn’t even been 24 hours since her birth.”

Family is everything. Especially this time of year, when we are all reminded just how lucky we are to be able to spend quality time with the ones we love. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Horford’s decision to spend Monday night with his family. And Boston’s biggest free agent signing in recent history should take solace in the fact that Michael Felger, the proud owner of the world’s hottest takes, is one of very few telling him he made the wrong choice.

Horford is expected back in the lineup tonight for a game against the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics are now 5-5 without the 30-year-old center and have an abysmal minus-30 rebound differential in the 10 games he’s missed.

Talking trades

The Celtics probably have one of the most intriguing rosters in the NBA for teams looking to add depth. With the Feb. 23 deadline still a few months away, it’s safe to assume Danny Ainge is already looking into which major additions would help his team reach the next level.

It’s also safe to assume that any trade Ainge makes will not be lacking in splash. The Celtics have depth that can help teams – like the Golden State Warriors – but players like Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart will not be heading to the West Coast with any draft picks unless a package headlined by Klay Thompson is heading back east.

The Boston Herald reported this week that league sources are saying Trader Danny is still looking at major trades he “knows are needed.” The depth in the 2017 draft class will also play to the Celtics’ favor if they decide to part ways with Brooklyn’s first-round pick, which continues to grow in value every time the Nets (5-12) take the floor.

All that being said, here’s a look at players the Celtics could be after:

Klay Thompson’s name has been associated with trade rumors since the season opened. It’s not all that crazy to think the Warriors could be shopping the third best scorer on a team that is likely destined for a third straight NBA Finals appearance. While the Celtics are one of the league’s deepest teams when fully healthy, depth is exactly what the Warriors lack. But Boston was ranked 22nd in rebounding going into Tuesday night’s games and that’s clearly been the C’s biggest pitfall this season. Thompson’s 3.3 rebounds per game is certainly not going to turn things around down low.

DeMarcus Cousins (28.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg), on the other hand, could be exactly what the Celtics want. Although he’s probably ranked dead last in karma points, Cousins is 11th in rebounds per game and he’s one of just two players ranked in the top 11 in both points and rebounds this year, joined by only Anthony Davis. On the court, this trade makes perfect sense. Off the court, this trade couldn’t be any farther from a good idea. Cousins is notoriously one of, if not the worst, chemistry guys in the league. Not even Brad Stevens can fix that. And the last thing a developing Marcus Smart needs is bad-boy Boogie Cousins encouraging his erratic behavior that resulted in three fouls in 51 seconds Monday night.

Blake Griffin’s name was mentioned in conjunction with the Celtics over the summer but nothing of substance ever came of the rumors. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers went as far as to deny the whispers to Boston.com altogether in July. Still, with the end of Griffin’s contract approaching and the possibility of him becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2018, it wouldn’t be completely out of left field if the Clippers were shopping the 2009 first-overall pick, who leads the team in scoring and is second in rebounding. But it would be a big mistake for the Celtics to ship a package full of assets to the Clippers for a Griffin rental. That’s not a deal worth making.

Looking ahead

Getting Jae Crowder (sprained ankle) and Horford (concussion) back to 100 percent has been a priority throughout the first month of the season. Now that they’re both getting healthy, the Celtics look a little more like the team everyone was expecting them to be. The next seven days will be crucial for Boston with games against Sacramento (7-11), Philadelphia (4-14) and Orlando (6-11) on the schedule.

It’ll be a good opportunity for the Celtics to get everything clicking – and create some separation – before a three-game stretch against Toronto, at Oklahoma City and at San Antonio.

(Michelle Berthiaume can be reached at 369-3338, mberthiaume@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @MonitorMichelle.)

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