In his first press conference as president of basketball operations and general manager for the Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens made one thing very clear: he will do anything it takes to put the Celtics’ two superstars — Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum — in contention to succeed in the playoffs.
The first move in order to catapult the Celtics into contention was the head-turning trade that sent four-time All-Star Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Stevens, orchestrating the trade with longtime friend and Thunder general manager Sam Presti, opted to move Walker and the 16th overall pick the upcoming draft for a package of Al Horford, Moses Brown, and a second-round pick.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) June 18, 2021
In the presser, Stevens cited the contract disparity between Horford and Walker (Horford is making around $26.5 million on average a year over the next two years, whereas Walker is making closer to $35 million), Horford’s veteran presence and Horford’s knowledge of the Celtics’ ethos and regime as catalysts for the trade.
“The opportunity to add Al, who makes significantly less money but is a really good player who has corporate knowledge of this environment, that’s really excited to be back in Boston and has a good feel for not only playing with our guys but also has made them better … his impact on others and his ability to lift others is one of his great strengths,” Stevens said of Horford.
“To have the ability to get that in return and gain financial flexibility moving forward, the cost, right, was a person that you really really like and one first-round pick,” he continued.
However, trading Walker was not an easy decision for Stevens, who coached him for two years before transitioning to the front office.
“The most challenging part is being in that seat and having to make that call and ultimately say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do that,’ when you’re talking about a guy like Kemba,” Stevens said. “Again, coached him for two years, have nothing but great things to say about him and really good teammate, really good player, really good person, easy to be around every day. I think that’s what made it the most difficult part of it, obviously.”
Nonetheless, Stevens has shown early on that regardless of players and picks he may need to move, that he’s steadfast in his belief that Boston needs to find players that complement their pair excellent wings: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
“The ability to make our wings better is going to be a huge part of the people that will be around them,” Stevens said.
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