Winners, losers from the Kemba Walker, Al Horford trade

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Boston and Oklahoma City didn’t even wait until the draft to get things started.

Friday the two sides announced a trade that, at its core, sent Kemba Walker and his oversized salary to Oklahoma City for Al Horford and his slightly less oversized contract. There was more to it, of course; here’s who gets what in the trade.

Boston Celtics: Al Horford, Moses Brown, 2023 second-round pick
Oklahoma City: Kemba Walker, No. 16 pick in 2021 NBA Draft, 2025 second-round pick

Who are the winners and losers in the Walker/Horford trade? Let’s break it down.

Winner: Thunder GM Sam Presti

Presti is the master of getting first-round picks on both ends of a trade, and he has done it again (as he did with Chris Paul most recently). In case you forgot, Presti and OKC got Philadelphia’s 2025 first-round pick (top-six protected) plus Theo Maledon to take on Horford’s contract in a trade that sent the Sixers Danny Green.

Now the Thunder pick up their third first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft to send out Horford, and they bring in Kemba Walker — a guy the Thunder will try to rehab just like CP3, then flip Walker out again (likely in a year, he’s going to be tough to move in the short term). This, folks, is how you do a rebuild right.

Winner: Boston Celtics… maybe

In his first move as the Big Kahuna for Boston, Brad Stevens moved Walker’s anchor of a contract, saving $9 million this season (yes, the one that just ended for Boston), but more importantly, Horford saves them $11.2 next season and just $14.5 million of his $26.5 million is guaranteed in 2022-23. Stevens freed up money by getting rid of a player in Walker whose knee issues had Boston convinced he would not be there for them in a deep playoff run.

The “maybe” comes with the question: What will Stevens and the Celtics do with that money? Waste the opportunity and this could flip Boston into the loser category quickly. The most likely outcome is to re-sign Evan Fournier, then use the mid-level exception to bring in another player for next season.

Whether via trade or the mid-level the Celtics may want to look into a floor-general kind of point guard. Right now, the rotation at the one would be Marcus Smart starting with Payton Pritchard behind him. Not terrible, but a player who could help Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with a little shot creation and organizing of the offense would be welcome.

Loser: Danny Ainge

He’s already out the door in Boston, but Ainge is the guy who let Horford walk to Philadelphia, then used that freed up cap space to get Walker back in 2019. Brad Stevens’ first move in Ainge’s chair was to essentially reverse that move. Ouch.

Not that Ainge cares as he sits back and surveys where he will work next (as a consultant or running a front office), maybe in Portland or Utah.

Winner: Al Horford

Horford watched the second half of this season from home because Oklahoma City was in the middle of a massive tank job wanted to play their younger players, and now he jumps to a team that should be in the mix in the top of the East. Horford can help the Celtics in a limited role, and now he’s in a much better space.

Limited role as a center, we should add. People suggesting the Celtics play Horford at the four forget when Philadelphia tried to do just that, with Horford next to Joel Embiid. Calling that a dumpster fire is an insult to dumpster fires. Horford needs to play the backup five.

Which is why the next Celtics head coach may have a headache — Tristan Thompson, Robert Williams III, Horford, Brown (who played well at the end of the season for Oklahoma City), Luke Kornet, and Tacko Fall all play center. Jabari Parker is really a five, too, but you can at least argue he should play the four. That’s a lot of big men to fit into the rotation. (Stevens may make another move here, but centers don’t bring much back in trades in today’s NBA.)

Loser, but with a chance at rehabilitation: Kemba Walker

When Boston got Walker in a sign-and-trade in 2019, it was not a bad contract so much as a bet — if Walker could stay healthy and in All-Star form, he was a great fit to go with Tatum and Brown and lead the Celtics deep into the postseason. Boston (and Ainge) bet big on Walker.

That bet didn’t pay off.

Walker goes in the loser category because his stock has fallen far enough that the Celtics had to throw in a decent first-round pick to get someone to take his deal on. That’s not a good sign.

But Chris Paul’s stock had fallen when he ended up in Oklahoma City; he rehabbed himself and his game, and look at him now. Horford also got some rehab in OKC.

The Thunder will look to trade Walker again, although it is likely next offseason before that gets done. A good season with the Thunder alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would change the dynamic.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

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Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.

Highlights from Clippers preseason win fueled by Luke Kennard

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No Kawhi Leonard. Or Paul George. Or John Wall, Norman Powell, Reggie Jackson and Nic Batum. The Clippers decided to rest six key rotation players in their preseason opener in Seattle against Maccabi Ra’anana, a game played in Seattle.

All those guys are expected to suit up Monday when the Clippers play the Portland Trail Blazers in a preseason game also in Seattle, the first NBA exhibition game played in the city since 2018.

Against Maccabi, it was the Luke Kennard show as he had 16 points.

The Clippers also got 14 points and 13 boards from Moses Brown. As a team, the Clippers cruised and put up a few highlights.

The Clippers have great depth, which should allow them to survive a season where both Leonard and George are expected to get their share of load management nights off. Leonard missed all of last season coming off a torn ACL, and George played in just 31 games due to a few injuries, including a shoulder issue. Still, the Clippers finished eighth in the West with a 42-40 record and had a top 10 defense in the league.

Adding Leonard and George to that mix is why the Clippers are considered title contenders out West. Monday night against the Blazers we should get our first look at the real Clippers team for this season. But Los Angeles is 1-0 this preseason.

Report: Udoka used ‘crude language’ with female subordinate prior to improper relationship

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The Boston Celtics handled the Ime Udoka investigation and suspension by the corporate handbook: They kept the woman’s name out of the news, kept details confidential (not even telling the players much for legal reasons), and acted swiftly and decisively.

But as the team on the court starts defending its Eastern Conference title, there has been a concern that details leaking out about the investigations — and responses to those leaks — could turn this into a season-long drama and distraction for the team. That first started on Friday when Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported this:

The independent law firm probe into Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka found that he used crude language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship with the woman, an element that significantly factored into the severity of his one-year suspension, sources told ESPN.

Those investigative findings — which described verbiage on Udoka’s part that was deemed especially concerning coming from a workplace superior — contribute to what is likely a difficult pathway back to his reinstatement as Celtics coach in 2023, sources told ESPN.

A few thoughts here.

• “Crude language” is just part of a more detailed and damning report, league sources have told NBC Sports. There is much more uncovered by the independent investigation, including about the power dynamic in play. It was enough that the Celtics thought the best move was to suspend for an entire season a coach loved by players who led the team to the NBA Finals (it’s not something the Celtics organization did lightly).

• As Wojnarowski and others have noted, it’s increasingly unlikely Udoka returns to coach the Celtics next season, even if that is not yet official.

• While some pundits and people around the league have said Udoka is “done,” the NBA has seen unexpected turnarounds before. Never say never in this league.

• About the only sure thing is that this story is not over.