Everything Al Horford is saying right now gives us the feeling that when this season is over, he is no longer going to be playing for the Atlanta Hawks.
In truth, it doesn’t matter what he says, because players don’t have to tell the truth or mean what they say. When things touch a contract negotiation that’s actually one year from being executed, it really doesn’t hold much substance. But going by recent events, especially LaMarcus Aldridge bolting on the Portland Trail Blazers despite his nice words 12 months earlier, the Hawks are going to lose their long serving and very good center.
Turns out Aldridge didn’t really want to stay with the Blazers. He simply said he wants to re-sign in Portland because the general manager told him to do it, avoiding unnecessary drama and contract talk during the season. But when the offseason began and Aldridge was allowed to talk to teams, the Blazers were on the bottom of his “to-do” list, if they were even on it at all.
As for Horford? He’s steering clear of controversy, which gives us and readers the opportunity to try and read between the lines and figure out what he means.
My focus right now is to get better individually and help our team be the best team that we can be. I have the same mindset and that is to help our team win and put us in a good position and try to be better. As far as the contract stuff, I’m going to wait until the season is over. I’m not going to let that linger and be a distraction. The focus is to be on the Hawks, on our team and getting better. Once the season ends, we’ll be able to sit down and talk and figure out all of that. I’m working on my body and working on my basketball. I want to expand my game to different things. The most important thing is I’m healthy. I’m looking forward to the season.
The Hawks don’t have that big of a problem with Horford. Sure, being an unrestricted free agent and with the salary cap rise he’s going to be asking for a lot more than $12 million a season, his salary for the 2015-2016 season. But he’s the only major player on their roster with an expiring deal. If he was going to extend his contract now, he would only be eligible for a 7.5% raise on his $12 million salary, which makes it a very easy choice for him to make.
So what is he going to make? Paul Millsap signed a three-year, $60 million deal this offseason, that includes a $21 million player option for the third season. It won’t be surprising to see Horford try to go higher than that, with the Hawks projected to have around $30 million in free cap space in the summer of 2016. But other teams are going to be more than capable of matching offers and presenting Horford with the max deal as well.
Last season Horford, a three-time All-Star, averaged 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds. He will be entering his ninth season in the league, all with the Hawks, and continues to play out of position as center with Millsap as his frontcourt partner.