Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
That’s how I feel about Al Horford declining next year’s $30 million player option with the Boston Celtics and, reportedly, moving on to sign a four-year deal with another team. The news comes around the same time that we’re learning Kyrie Irving will also be opting out to become a free agent.
Not that we shouldn’t have seen Irving’s departure coming. We should have. And I did. But to see Horford pack up and run from Boston was something I wouldn’t have put my money on.
If anything, if Horford was to go, I would’ve expected him to possibly agree to a sign-and-trade. Initial reports of Horford’s opt-out weren’t really a surprise, as most people believed he was intending to re-sign with the Celtics on a multi-year deal at a lower average annual value, in order to give the team a little salary cap relief.
That does not seem to be the case now though. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that there’s “too great of a gulf between what the team is willing to offer and what Horford wants on a long-term deal.”
So, in other words, Horford’s days in Boston are done. And again, don’t let that door hit you, Al.
This is me knocking Horford on his way out the door while not really knocking Horford on his way out the door. What I’m really trying to do is control my emotions, and understand that the Celtics’ star players are still here. And they go by the names of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
When Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge hit the reset button back in the summer of 2013 by trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, he acquired several first-round picks from the Nets, which resulted in the drafting of Brown at No. 3 overall in 2016 and Tatum at No. 3 overall in 2017.
Brown is 22 years old. Tatum is 21. Ainge has held onto both, even avoiding the temptation of sending one of the young players to New Orleans in a trade for Anthony Davis.
Davis was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers over the weekend. And as I told you before, the Celtics were wise to not get involved in a bidding war and give up Brown or Tatum. Because like I said, those are the Celtics’ real stars, now, and for years to come.
The Celtics at least owe it to themselves to find out if that’s true. With Irving and Horford gone, it’s time to hand Brown and Tatum the keys to the car. After all, wasn’t that the plan when he traded Pierce and Garnett, to draft players like Brown and Tatum with the ever-so-valuable “Brooklyn Picks” and then let those players develop into NBA stars?
We’ve already seen their potential. They’ve both already made a major impact on a playoff team. And you’d have to think they’re only going to improve at the NBA level, especially with the golden opportunity that they’re about to receive in Boston.
And with some money freed up, who knows where the Celtics could spend it. Even if they don’t spend it on anything right now, I’m actually looking forward to seeing Brown and Tatum make this their team. Sure, Gordon Hayward is still in the mix, and so is Marcus Smart, and possibly Terry Rozier. But this is going to be a Celtics team led by Brown and Tatum.
If Horford doesn’t want to be here for that, he doesn’t have to be.
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