Storyline: Al Horford Free Agency

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“He’s a perfect fit,” Crowder said. “That’s what we were telling him. He had Washington and some other teams looking at him, but we beat them four times this year. You don’t want to go there. We play through our bigs, and a lot of teams don’t play through their bigs — they post them up and give them the ball. Our bigs, like he did in Atlanta, he makes the play. We were explaining our basketball terminology to him, and how ours will fit right in with (his) game. It’s going to mesh. Most guys have to blend in and fit in, but it’s going to be automatically just there. The style he plays, that’s what we reiterated to him: The way we play fits you so well. We need you. You need us. Let’s make it happen.”

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The Celts did get Al Horford to agree to a free agent deal, a move the now-former Atlanta center delivered via Twitter after Ainge, Brad Stevens, ownership, a group of players and Tom Brady had met with Durant in the Hamptons earlier on Saturday. But Durant may have been ahead of the C’s on that news. “I got the impression that they knew something before we did,” said Ainge. “I know that they had some conversation. They were very familiar with what Horford was choosing between. It seemed to me in the presentation like Al and KD had been discussing their plans together.”

On Saturday evening, a deep Celtics contingent that even included Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wrapped up a recruiting meeting in New York with the prize of this free agent class, Kevin Durant. The Celtics were pleased with the gathering, and as they boarded a private jet to fly back to Boston they were also thinking about forward Al Horford, their other prime target. But as the jet prepared to take off, a phone rang and delivered the news the Celtics, their fans, and their city have been waiting for: Al Horford had accepted Boston’s four-year, $113 million maximum-salary contract offer. The pilot was asked to pull to the side of the runway, a source said, and when the call ended, there was a celebration.

Horford’s father, Tito, said in a telephone interview Saturday night that his son had narrowed his choices down to the Hawks and the Celtics. As the family discussed the options, the conversation often returned to the uncommon passion of Boston’s fans. In Atlanta, support at home games was sometimes tepid, despite the fact that the Hawks had gone 108-56 over the last two years. “There wasn’t as much motivation for him when he saw all the empty seats when they were winning,” Tito Horford said. “He said to me, ‘Dad, when we were playing Boston, they were down 15 points and they were cheering their team like they were winning the game. They’re so into the game.’ This is special for us, especially for him.”

Thunder going after Al Horford?

As they prepare to make their pitch to Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been making calls around the league looking to clear a massive amount of salary-cap space in a move rival executives believe is an effort to go after free agent Al Horford in addition to Durant, multiple sources told ESPN.com. Horford played for Thunder coach Billy Donovan at the University of Florida, where they teamed up to win two national titles, and they remain close. The Thunder have an opening at power forward after trading Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic last week.

The Hawks’ number one priority is to bring back Horford, Kent Bazemore and possibly Kris Humphries as unrestricted free agents. They will also need to figure out their point guard situation – which means an almost assured trade of either Jeff Teague or Dennis Schroder. Those are the likely scenarios. However, there is a chance the Hawks could shoot for the stars and line up Horford with another max player such as Kevin Durant or DeMar DeRozan – likely the three players on the market who will get max deals.
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December 11, 2017 | 11:06 pm EST Update