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Report: Wizards, Celtics in lead for Al Horford

Report: Wizards, Celtics in lead for Al Horford

The 2016 edition of NBA free agency is about two classes: Kevin Durant and everybody else.

Al Horford is considered the best of the best among that second group. The free agent big man is said to be strongly considering joining the Washington Wizards. 

The Wizards and Boston Celtics have "emerged as the frontrunners" to sign Horford, The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday morning. Horford, a four-time All-Star with the Atlanta Hawks, is expected to make a final decision Saturday night.

Washington met with Horford Friday night in Atlanta, CSNmidatlantic.com reported.

After pondering a handful of teams, Horford, 30, "pared down" the list Saturday morning, league sources told Wojnarowski.

One of the most versatile frontcourt options in the league, Horford would likely receive a max contract of four years, $113 million from either the Wizards or Celtics. The Hawks can offer a fifth year, but that window may have closed with the signing of center Dwight Howard Friday. 

Horford, a four-time All-Star, could only return to the Hawks if he decided to take the team’s most recent offer and the franchise made a series of moves to clear the necessary salary-cap space – an option that has become increasingly remote, league sources said.

Washington re-signed restrcted free agent Bradley Beal to a massive five-year contract, but did not add any outside players on the first day of free agency. Horford woudn't just be a player, but a game-changer for a Wizards team that did not qualify for the playoffs last season.

The Wizards already have a viable starting tandem with center Marcin Gortat and power forward Markieff Morris. Horford's perimeter shooting and interior game means he could play with either big man and be a great fit with All-Star point guard John Wall. Barring a trade, Horford would likely start at power forward next to Gortat.

Horford averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 blocks last season for the Atlanta Hawks, where he has played since 2007 when he was drafted No. 3 overall. 

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NBA reportedly has targeted July 31 to return to play

NBA reportedly has targeted July 31 to return to play

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has told the NBA's Board of Governors that the league has set July 31 as a target date to resume the 2019-20 season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The conversation was held on Friday during a conference call that was intended to discuss several return-to-play formats and a potential timeline for resumption of the season. 

Play has been suspended in the NBA since March 11 when Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Teams were nearing the end of the regular season with 15-19 games remaining on their schedules. Only the Golden State Warriors were eliminated from the playoffs.

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It is not clear how the NBA plans on returning. Going straight into the playoffs like the NHL has chosen to do, finishing a condensed regular season for 72 games, a group stage World Cup format, or a play-in tournament are all options on the table.

Earlier in the week, general managers expressed their interest in expanding the playoff field from 16 to 20-24 teams. However, they appear to be split on several other key issues.

Currently, the league is in discussions to hold the rest of the season at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. It would be a central location for all the games in a "bubble-like" environment. 

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Report: NBA general managers are in favor of 20 or more playoff teams

Report: NBA general managers are in favor of 20 or more playoff teams

While general managers are split on how the NBA should proceed with the 2020 season, there is one factor that most teams agree on: expanding the playoff field. 

In a survey sent to NBA GMs this week, 83% (25 of 30) of them voted in favor of a "Playoffs Plus" format that would have 20 or more teams in the playoffs, according to Shams Charania. However, the 30 GMs were split on whether to maintain the traditional playoff seeding (53%) or to reseed the field (47%), presumably from 1-20 based on the overall league standings

The traditional NBA's playoff format has 16 team bracket with eight teams from each conference. A format that has been in place since 1984. Adding four teams, whether the four best teams outside the playoffs or two from either conference would make the largest playoff field ever.

Expanding the playoff field would be similar to the NHL's return to play plan which had the top 12 teams in both conferences advancing straight to the playoffs. The NBA is considering a play-in format to include New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio and Sacramento - all Western Conference teams - according to ESPN.

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Other details seem to have less of a consensus from the decision-makers of each franchise. Here are some of the results according to Charania:

  • 53% (16) GMs want to advance directly to the NBA playoffs, 27% (8) would like an abbreviated season with a play-in
  • 60% (18) were in favor of a 72-game season. All teams had completed 63-67 games before the stoppage.
  • Non-playoff teams were split on resuming the season
  • Most GMs wanted the season to conclude by Oct. 1
  • They wanted a larger roster or more flexibility when play resumes

None of the results of the survey are set in stone. Merely they were used to gauge opinions from each team. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will talk with the league’s board of governors to discuss formats and a potential timeline on Friday. 

The Wizards are currently the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference and 5.5 games out of the standard final playoff spot. In terms of the league standings, they have the 22nd-best record in the NBA.

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