NBA Rumors & Notes: Execs Size Up Potential New Contract for Celtics Veteran

Brad Stevens, Celtics

Getty Brad Stevens, Celtics

It’s never been easy, really, to put a value on what Al Horford means to the Celtics. Horford has never averaged more than 14.0 points for Boston, but his shooting, passing, defense and veteran presence has been invaluable in the five years he’s been in green.

Horford will be 37 years old next summer, and an NBA free agent. He told Heavy Sports’ Steve Bulpett this week that he wants to play another two or three years, and that he would like to do so in Boston. But Horford bolted the Celtics for a bigger contract once in his career (leaving to go to Philadelphia as a free agent in 2019) and there is some concern that perhaps he’d do it again next summer if he gets a bigger offer elsewhere.

But what would it take to sign Horford? That figures to be a major issue for team president Brad Stevens in the coming months. And good luck to him on that, because the price for Horford seems to depend on whom you ask.

“Most of the teams with money next year are young,” said one Western Conference executive, who estimated a two-year deal in the $20-25 million range. “They’re not going to be lining up to give Horford a big contract. The Celtics will control the market on that. They’ll be fair to him but they are a tax team and they’ll need to watch every dime.”

Another league source had that as a low offer, and said it is more likely that Horford gets a three-year deal, probably with the third year at an option or only partially guaranteed. “He can still play, he is in great shape,” the source said. “If you did around $13 million or $14 million a year, about $40 or $42 million total, that is what you’d expect to see. You never know how the market is going to play out on a guy like him, though.”

One Eastern Conference exec made the most sense, suggesting that the Celtics would most likely want to keep their payroll stable, and that the upcoming salaries of Horford and forward Grant Williams (a restricted free agent this summer) should be taken in conjunction.

“Right now, you’re paying those guys $30 million,” the exec said. “They don’t want to add a bunch of salary, so if you can keep them below $30 million in starting money next year, it is not a bad situation. Other guys are going up, so you’d like to save where you can. If you start (Grant) Williams at $16-17 million or so, you can go to $11-12 million for Al and still keep yourself around $180 million in payroll. They want both of those guys around so they have to think about them as  a sliding scale.”

A Ben Simmons ‘Solution’ for the Nets

Word that some in the Nets organization are frustrated with the play, and frequent absences, of Ben Simmons is not engendering much sympathy from other executives, who maintain that Brooklyn was too lenient in dealing away star guard James Harden at least year’s trade deadline.

“They dug their own hole on this,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “They were sort of just over the barrel with the James Harden stuff, the Sixers had them in a no-win position. They should have held out more on Harden but they looked around and figured they were not going to do better. It is tough to trade away a star like that—we’re not going to do better, let’s take what we can get.

“In the end, they got really, really screwed by the Sixers because they did not have any leverage with Harden. But if they took a harder line on trading Harden, they’d be in a better position. They could have waited it out until the summer, or at least bluffed it. But they caved to Philly in the deal and they’re paying the price.”

Simmons has averaged 5.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists this season, and is making only 47.1% of his free throws. He’s played in only 10 of the Nets’ 15 games.

That’s not to say the Sixers have been a resounding success since acquiring Harden. The team was 36-23 when Harden debuted for Philadelphia last February, and has gone 28-21 since. That includes a loss in the second round of the playoffs last spring, which is just as far as they had gotten in 2021.

The Nets could look to move Simmons, but that won’t be easy for a guy who has mostly been a non-entity for two years and has almost $80 million remaining over two seasons after this one.

“The Nets got hustled by Klutch (Simmons’ representatives, who also represent the Lakers’ LeBron James) in the deal so, hey, maybe the Lakers will take him,” the exec said. “See what LeBron can do with him. Maybe that’s the solution.”

Michael Jordan Could Hold up Hornets’ Fire Sale

The Hornets stopped their eight-game losing streak with a win over Orlando on Monday, thanks in part to the return of LaMelo Ball, who logged 17 points and nine assists in his second game back from a badly sprained ankle. But a loss to Indiana dropped Charlotte to 4-12, a half-game ahead of Detroit and Houston for worst record in the NBA.

The Pacers loss was part of a stretch in which the Hornets play nine of 14 games on their home floor—where they are just 1-6 this season—and many believe that if the team can’t get itself righted by the end of that stretch, which runs through December 16, the front office will be ready to sell off some of its high-priced talent in favor of a retooling of the roster.

Point guard Terry Rozier, forward Gordon Hayward and center Mason Plumlee are three guys executives around the league are eyeing in Charlotte, and would-be contenders teams like the Knicks, Heat, Mavericks, Suns, and Lakers are expected to inquire should those players be put on the market.

“Hayward (currently out with a shoulder injury) is a gamble because it’s been five years since he was actually healthy,” one Eastern Conference GM told Heavy Sports. “But he’s only got one year after this one (at $31.5 million) and there are teams that probably need to take a gamble if they’re going to win a title—Dallas is one, and Miami. He’d be a good fit in Milwaukee or Phoenix, too, even New York. He has some versatility to his game. But again, can he stay on the floor? Is he worth the risk?

“Rozier is a little tougher because he has the contract (first of a four-year, $96 million deal) but he has fans with the Lakers, if they want to give up some picks.”

Some even think the Hornets could entertain the possibility of trading forward P.J. Washington, who was not able to come to an agreement on an extension this. Washington will be a restricted free agent, only 24 years old and averaging 14.5 points this season. He would be a potential target of the aforementioned teams, and just about every other contender in the league (and a, “perfect fit,” for the Celtics, the GM said.)

The problem, though, is that a fire sale in Charlotte may never get off the ground, even if it makes the most sense–thanks largely to the team owner.

“The hurdle is getting the owner to go along with it,” the GM told Heavy Sports. “It is Michael Jordan. He has never OK’d something like that and it is not clear he would, even if it gets bad this year, even if it puts them in a good spot in the draft for Victor (Wembanyama). He has been pretty strong against tanking. Hard to see another way forward for them now, though.”

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