By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Celtics officially have more than Kyrie Irving to worry about, as Al Horford has decided not to exercise his $30.1 million option for next season and will instead become an unrestricted free agent, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Boston Celtics center Al Horford will not exercise the $30.1M option on his 2019-20 contract and become an unrestricted free agent, league sources tell ESPN. Horford and the Celtics both have interest in working toward a new deal in July, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 18, 2019
The good news is that there appears to be mutual interest in a new deal to keep Horford in Boston, according to Wojnarowski. That interest would likely see Horford take a slight discount to have an extra year or two of financial security with the C's.
Should Horford truly explore free agency, however, the idea of ring-chasing has to have some real allure for the 33-year-old Horford, who has yet to appear in the NBA Finals in a 12-year career split between Atlanta and Boston. I mean, it's only human to see what's out there, perhaps doubly so if the Celtics are unable to add a Kyrie-level replacement and/or lose more pieces when free agency begins on June 30. And especially with a NBA landscape that could be completely transformed by free agent decisions from talents such as Kawhi Leonard (linked to the Clippers), Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant (even if he's injured), and uncertainties surrounding both the walking wounded Warriors and seemingly restless Rockets.
But if Horford and the Celtics can find common ground on a new deal as expected, the 6-foot-10 big will be happily welcomed back by Brad Stevens and Co. as the team's lead-by-example floor general.
He's also a piece that the Celtics really can't afford to lose, as nobody's built to handle the role Horford has played as both a defensive stopper for gamebreaking titans like Joel Embiid and big who can knock down three-pointers on a somewhat regular basis (Horford knocked down 18 of his 44 attempts from deep in Boston's nine-game postseason run this past spring).
Horford, who signed a max deal with the Celtics in 2016, averaged 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in 68 games last season.