Horford dilemma: Is he worth $100 million?

Boston Celtics' Al Horford during NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Canton, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Has blowing up of the Boston Celtics-dynasty-that-never-happened officially begun?

Unofficially, it started when Kyrie Irving changed his mind and became mean-Kyrie Irving, saying he'd let people know about his immediate future soon after free agency started (6 p.m. EST on June 30).

Al Horford's announcement on Tuesday that he was opting out of his fourth year, player option, worth $30,123,015, was expected. The new unrestricted free agent is able to add on years and money.

Which begs the question:

Should the Celtics be involved in Horford's request, which is expected to begin at three years at $100 million? And who knows, it could stop at four years and somewhere around $140 million.

Before exploding, consider a few facts.

Unlike Kyrie, Horford has been all-in with the Celtics' Pride thing we love to brag about. In other words, he cares about winning over stats.

And coach Brad Stevens has gone out of his way several hundred times the last three seasons, extolling the virtues of Horford's presence.

Stevens has called Horford "unbelievable," "the anchor" of the Celtics defense and "best passing big man" in the game.

A little over a year ago, LeBron James said Horford's "the rock" and "safety net" of the Celtics.

With Celtics still relying on younger players -- Jaylen Brown (three years) and Jayson Tatum (two years) -- and Kyrie probably gone, there will be a leadership void if Horford signs elsewhere.

But having just turned 33 years old two weeks ago, would Horford be able to pull the weight of his $25 million to $33 million asking price?

The fact that the Celtics appear to be in blowup-mode, missing a star/superstar in order to compete for a championship, Horford would probably only return if owner Wyc Grousbeck overpaid.

Here's a guess: Grousbeck is not in the overpay-mode right now after Gordon Hayward's contract, which is $67 million over two years.

Celtics president Danny Ainge may have a say in this, too, as to convincing Horford about his plan for a rebuild, adding a player or two, and allowing Stevens to coach again.

If Horford leaves, Ainge will have some financial room to work with, not including the three first round draft picks (Nos. 14, 20 and 22) in a "so-so" draft outside of the first three picks.

But we saw what happened when "new" pieces were added to the unexpected run in the Eastern Conference finals a year ago. It's not that easy.

Keeping Horford without Kyrie opens up room for some of last year's biggest complainers to make a stand. But it also sets up a season with unknown expectations.

Would I give Horford $100 million over the next three years? Nope. I'd roll the dice and ride Coach Stevens and reluctantly bank on Tatum and Brown becoming impact players.

That, though, could be a bumpy, two-year ride.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@gloucestertimes.com.





NBA Draft on Thursday

First round

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3. New York Knicks

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28. Golden State Warriors

29. San Antonio Spurs

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