NBA Rumor: Al Horford Free Agency

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3 years ago via ESPN

He might not be a superstar like some of the others in this class, but Al Horford’s entry into the free-agent market has sent numerous teams into a tizzy trying to get his valued services. Much like three years ago, when a number of teams rushed to offer him a max contract when he decided to leave the Atlanta Hawks, Horford is in such massive demand across the league that he’s very likely to get the four-year, $100 million-plus deal he’s seeking by opting out of his deal in Boston. In addition to teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans, who instantly emerged as possible landing spots, league sources say there are a few surprise bidders who are trying to land the veteran big man. These include the Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers.
3 years ago via ESPN

The Kings are interested in adding a center this offseason, and there’s space for them to do it even with re-signing Harrison Barnes. It would require them to move on from Willie Cauley-Stein, who wants that anyway, as his agent has asked the Kings to let him go. They’d potentially have the room to make an aggressive offer to Horford, but they have a number of the top centers on their list, sources said. In addition to Horford, the Kings could chase Brook Lopez and Nikola Vucevic. Lopez played for coach Luke Walton with the Lakers.

The Celts still have to find out what Al Horford wants to do. The veteran can opt out of the approximately $29 million he has coming next year, and, according to a league source, Horford would like to stay. The source added that he’d take a more team-friendly number for next season if he can get two more years tacked on.

Few people have been talking about his future in Boston because most people assumed Horford would either opt in to the $30 million or opt out and sign a longer-term deal with Boston. Not many people expected a third option of possibly leaving, maybe not even Horford himself. “It’s something that I haven’t even stopped to think about,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed being here in Boston. Just have to wait and see what we’re going to do as a team. And it’s steps that the management is going to do moving forward, and continue to get better.”

As for the future, Horford can also opt out of his contract to become a free agent next summer, but at the moment, he sounds as committed as his point guard. “If they want me here, I’m very happy,” Horford says. Looking around the brand-new Celtics practice facility at his teammates, Horford points out that it wasn’t like this when he first decided to come to Boston. He remembered the recruiting pitch, sitting in front of Stevens, Ainge and owner Wyc Grousbeck. They told him about “all these assets.” There were picks, there was cap space. “Maybe we sign a superstar here or there,” they told him. “We’re able to make a trade. We’re able to really make a team that’s great.”

“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.”

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.”
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June 28, 2022 | 11:13 am EDT Update
The Nets and Irving did come close to an agreement late last week, sources said, before talks stalled out. Sources said Irving had three potential opt-in-and-trade options available to pursue before making his final decision. Across the league, there are only five teams with projected salary-cap space: Detroit, San Antonio, Orlando, Indiana and New York, with all wanting to build around younger players or prioritizing other free agents. For their part, the Lakers were much more motivated to have Irving sign as a free agent than they were in acquiring the three-time All-NBA guard via trade, sources said. And as Irving went through his opt-in-and-trade options — as well as the potential of joining the Lakers in free agency — the decision to return to Brooklyn crystalized.
Irving’s agent, Shetellia Riley Irving, and the Nets front office held extensive and productive extension discussions over the past six days, with sources on both sides describing good-faith negotiations to reach a new deal. The Nets and Shetellia Riley Irving worked through various proposals, including a two-year max extension that included incentives based on games played as well as a four-year max that included two years guaranteed and triggers for years three and four based on the games played in years one and two, sources said. Irving showed a willingness to accept an incentive-based deal before a final counter was made to the Nets, according to sources: a short-term contract extension protecting both sides with a player option. Brooklyn declined.
Several teams are expected to continue to pursue Irving via trade, but his opt-in makes clubs consider more closely whether to trade assets in a deal for a player who will enter unrestricted free agency in 2023. Teams across the league understand Irving’s talent, and now a full season in 2022-23 allows him the opportunity to prove himself once again, then return to the market and earn a maximum contract next summer. Multiple sources with knowledge of his decision said Irving wants to prioritize winning a championship next season and show why he’s one of the best players in the league.