No matter what the talking heads say as the reason for the Celtics and Danny Ainge’s masterful rebuild falling apart in a short period of time the blame should be squarely be placed at the feet of the injury to Gordon Hayward. If Hayward merely sprains his ankle, misses a week, the Celtics won the 2018 championship and Ainge is given the treatment Raptors GM Masai Ujiri deservingly is receiving right now. Maybe Kyrie Irving leaves regardless because he’s a weirdo. But I can’t believe Al Horford would let an extra year get in the way of chasing a title in Boston.
I don’t care how disastrous this season has been. Even without Kyrie with Horford the Celtics are title contenders for 2019-20 depending on if Ainge can keep the five-time All-Star entering his age 33 season. If Horford allows Danny to sign him to a contract which gives the front office wiggle room to make tweaks here and there. Yet, Horford also wants a four-year deal and to play for a championship contender. Boston can give him one of those things; it isn’t the extra year.
If ever there’s a player whose leaving would make me borderline suicidal it’s Horford.
Maybe there’s a chance he ends up back at the bargaining table with Boston in a week or two if the free agent market isn’t as fruitful as Horford believes. Whatever Horford left on the table in Boston it certainly will be there on the Fourth of July if he’s still unsigned.
I struggle to understand Horford wanting to leave. The main culprit for last year’s disaster will either be a Net, Knick, Laker or taking a sabbatical to work on his cosmetic energies. They’ll be a happier work environment and the conference likely will be weaker if free agents Kawhi Leonard and Khris Middleton bolt from the conference. Horford owns Joel Embiid and the reason Sixer fans are contaminating social media with their rancid attempts at comedy as they gleefully celebrate the demolition of their enemy is deep down they know Embiid never could conquer Horford.
In the west Horford will have to fight against Jusurf Nurkic, DeAndre Ayton, Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert. By the time the postseason rolls around his body will have been beaten to a pulp. If a team already had a godfather offer ready for June 30 then by all means, do what’s best for yourself. Players need to look out for themselves because certainly owners and general managers won’t. But if the gulf between Horford and Boston turns out to be just a couple million and an extra year, then both sides really need to take a breather and think about what it is they are really gaining by separating.
Boston potentially is looking at $33,572,861 in cap space to spend if Horford leaves and Ainge trades out of this draft; the Celtics have three firsts this year and the 51st pick. What-if Horford calls Ainge and asks for $82.5 for four-years. The year-by-year layout goes:
Year 1: $25,000,000
Year 2: $15,000,000
Year 3: $25,000,000
Year 4: $15,000,000
This allows Boston to preserve some flexibility for next summer when it comes time to sign Jaylen Brown when his rookie contract is up. We won’t have to worry about keeping Jayson Tatum the next year because Gordon Hayward will have become a free agent after 2021. There’s no way he won’t exercise his $34.1 million player-option – even if he does it’s a positive for Boston.
Anyways. So signing Big Al to $25 leaves Boston $9.4 to fill out four roster spots. If they keep pick 14 they’ll have $6.9 to fill in three-spots. If they sign all three to the maximum they can be paid the Celtics will have to work with their minimum to fill in one roster spot and will be $7,711,507 over the cap, but a non-taxpayer team.
Keep in mind there’s a chance Horford is eyeing a larger dollar figure. Quite frankly, I don’t know if it’s smart for Ainge to meet Horford there if it handcuffs him from building around The Jays in the future – let alone this crucial season, which the main goal should be shove up everyone’s ass.
If a team does offer Horford $110 million for four seasons then perhaps it’s best for Ainge to move away from the table and accept fate dealt him bad hands ever since the Isaiah Thomas trade 22-months ago. It’s not all bad. The Celtics will still have the pick they are owed from Memphis; top-6 protected for 2020, unprotected in ‘21. The Grizzlies recently traded Mike Conley to the Jazz and are going full rebuild. Maybe that pick is your golden ticket back to competing for rings… or maybe the Grizzlies fuck you like the Sacrmento Kings did and inexplicably have a decent (by their standards) season and you’re picking outside of the top-10 like this year.
Letting go of Horford and closing the title window on this era of Celtics basketball does provide the shrewd GM with many avenues to rebuild. Maybe the best decisions we make are the hardest ones?