“I’m not sure that has anything to do with it for me,” Horford said of Irving's decision, according to the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett. “I just think that if Kyrie would have stayed, I don’t know if it would have worked. There would have had to be some major changes as far as players, because it was just clear that the group that we had just wasn’t going to be able to coexist.”
Horford took his talents to the Philadelphia 76ers, while Irving landed with the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams are the Celtics' rivals in the Atlantic Division.
However, Horford added it "would have been totally different” if he knew Kemba Walker was joining the Celtics. A three-time All-Star, Walker wound up in Boston following a sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets.
The Celtics took a step back during Horford's third and final season with the team. But they still finished 49-33, good enough for the organization's 11th trip to the playoffs in 12 years.
Head coach Brad Stevens often faced the difficult task of juggling which group would be emphasized between the established veterans (Irving, Horford, and Gordon Hayward) and talented youngsters (Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier).
"I just feel like we had so much talent, just a lot of talent, and we all wanted to do great things," Horford said. "There were just too many of us almost. I just feel like we had so much that it was very, very difficult to essentially keep everybody feeling good and focused on where we wanted to get to. And I do believe that that just kept getting in our way.”
Ironically, Horford's Celtics enjoyed the most success when both Irving and Hayward were shut down for the season, reaching Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference finals after completing a 55-win campaign.