The Boston Celtics won’t have to cross this bridge until 2023, but Al Horford’s free agency will be coming up in less than a year. Even at 36 years old, Horford played an important role in the Celtics making their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010. If he plays at, or close to, the same level for this upcoming season, there’s no telling what his price tag may be when he approaches free agency.
Because of all that happened from when Horford left by the Celtics to join the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019 to when he was re-acquired by Boston in 2021, a league executive has a hard time believing Horford would leave again.
“Al went and got his money with the Sixers, and he was miserable. (Then) he went to Oklahoma City. He kind of experienced what else was out there. It would be a shock if they let him go or if he bolted on that again,” the league executive explained to Heavy.
Even though the numbers on a possible deal could be tricky knowing the Celtics cap situation, the exec doesn’t see Horford leaving because of how successful Horford has been in his time with the Celtics.
“The trick is going to be, what is the right number for him? I don’t see him being a minimum guy next summer, and you don’t want to offer him that and insult him. But they’re a tax team. They need to have Horford give them a break on that next deal. But no way he leaves there. He can’t be as successful elsewhere as he is there.”
What’s more, Heavy’s Steve Bulpett revealed in a Celtics mailbag how Horford truly felt about Boston following his departure in 2019.
Horford Did Not Want to Leave Boston
Bulpett revealed in a mailbag from July 22, 2022, that Horford didn’t want to leave the Celtics in 2019 and may have stayed if he had known Kemba Walker was going to be Kyrie Irving’s immediate replacement.
“Horford really didn’t want to leave Boston the first time, but Kyrie Irving was in the process of leaving (in an interview before the start of the 2019-20 season, Al told me he would have looked at things differently if he’d known Kemba Walker was coming) and there was uncertainty with the Celtics.”
Horford also thought that Philadelphia provided a better chance for a title among other advantages, according to Bulpett.
“When Philadelphia stepped in with big money, the chance to play next to Joel Embiid and a seemingly great opportunity to compete for a title, he moved on. Horford didn’t love having to get beat up inside, and the idea that Embiid would draw the larger opponents was attractive.”
Regarding Horford’s upcoming free agency, Bulpett also added that “the Celtics would love to have him.” At the same time, it appears the Celtics will limit Horford’s minutes for the upcoming season.
Horford to Sit Out Most Back-to-Backs
While being asked about the Celtics center situation, Jared Weiss of The Athletic brought up that the Celtics plan to rest Horford more this upcoming season, which will include resting him during stretches where they have consecutive games.
“They will certainly need center depth, as Al Horford is expected to sit out most back-to-backs and have his minutes limited even further next season, according to team sources.”
While having the 36-year-old Horford play less makes sense, how the Celtics will adjust with him playing fewer minutes is up in the air.
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