BOSTON – Bringing home Banner 18 remains a goal for the Boston Celtics and the franchise took a significant step in that direction on Saturday when they came to terms with Al Horford.
The 30-year-old free agent has come to terms on a four-year, $113 million contract with the Celtics after spurning a late push by the Atlanta Hawks, the only team he played for in his first nine seasons in the NBA. The deal also includes a player option after the third season.
The Hawks, having already reached a three-year, $70.5 million agreement with Dwight Howard followed by a four-year, $70 million deal with Kent Bazemore, was looking to trade all-star forward Paul Millsap in order to create enough salary cap space to re-sign Horford to what would have been a five-year, $153 million deal.
And so here is Ainge and the Celtics having landed the biggest free agent signing in Ainge’s decade-plus reign in leading the franchise’s basketball operations staff.
While it’s not parade down Causeway Street-worthy, there is a tremendous amount of significance in what the Celtics have done by adding the four-time all-star to their roster.
It gives Boston the kind of credibility that, particularly this time of year, they lacked. Boston has never been a hotbed destination for free agents, and the signing of Horford may not necessarily change that significantly.
But make no mistake about it: the game’s top players and their representatives are not going to be as apprehensive as we’ve seen in the past when it comes to potentially playing for the Celtics.
The addition of Horford also adds talent and veteran experience to a frontline that has been among the younger groups in the NBA.
Adding Horford may be the first of many changes to the Celtics’ frontcourt.
The Celtics made a qualifying offer to Jared Sullinger which makes him a restricted free agent. By landing Horford, it’s not a stretch to think that Sullinger can go and sign an offer sheet and Boston decides not to match it.
A similar scenario could play out with Tyler Zeller who has drawn some interest from teams who view him as a low-cost big man who could provide quality depth.
But no disrespect to Sullinger or Zeller, but there will be very little talk or thought given to their current plight with the Celtics.
Instead, all the attention will be shifted towards Horford and whether adding him will be enough to convince Kevin Durant to sign on with the Green team as well.
Regardless of how that works out, the Celtics are a better team now than they were when free agency began.
And to think, there’s still time for even more fireworks for the Celtics!
A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN