Al Horford denies report he left Hawks because they signed Dwight Howard

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Why did Al Horford leave the Hawks for the Celtics?

He cited money, the biggest factor in player movement.

But did Atlanta signing Dwight Howard play a part? A couple reports say so.

Ken Berger of CBSSports:

Factor No. 1, according to league sources: Horford was none too pleased with how reluctant the Hawks were to come forward with a full five-year max. Factor No. 2: Atlanta’s signing of Dwight Howard. Could there be a more contradicting force in the NBA to Horford than Howard, in terms of substance vs. style?

“He didn’t want to play with Dwight,” a person familiar with the situation told CBS Sports.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

They came up short on the money, and acquired Howard — about whom Horford had major reservations, per sources close to the situation.

Horford denies that, though.

Horford, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

No, no, no. Not at all. I don’t have a problem with Dwight at all. I think that he is a great player and he has a lot of ability and a lot of potential. It has nothing to do with not wanting to play with Dwight. I don’t know if you remember but there was a time when I wanted to play power forward. With a guy like him, that would have been easier. It had nothing to do with Dwight. He’s a good guy.

Howard doesn’t seem like the best teammate, but neither I nor Horford have played with him. As a free agent, Horford had little recourse but to go by hearsay — positive or negative — about Howard. It’s not as if Horford could have a test run playing with Howard.

Leaving Atlanta in part because of Howard is a perfectly acceptable choice. But slamming Howard publicly on the way out the door would be viewed as totally unacceptable.

So, file this under: What else is he supposed to say?