Al Horford is leaving Atlanta. The 30-year-old unrestricted free agent has come to terms with the Boston Celtics on a four-year deal worth $113 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Wojnarowski's broke news of the deal exactly four minutes after saying Boston had "rapidly lost hope" with Horford and that he was likely to return to Atlanta.
Atlanta's offer ultimately fell $6 million short in total, according to Wojnarowkski.
Horford, a four-time All-Star, is coming off a season in which he averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 blocks last season for the Hawks. He helped lead Atlanta to 48 wins and a ninth consecutive playoff birth. The 30-year-old Horford, who was selected No. 3 overall by the Hawks in 2007, has never missed the playoffs in his career.
By joining the Celtics, Horford immediately becomes the team's best big man, something they clearly lacked last season against the best opponents and in the postseason. With range and defensive versatile, Horford is a viable pairing with anyone in the front court. While he's not the traditional superstar who can isolate on the wing and score like Celtics fans imagined, he's definitely a great player who will make the team better.
Horford announced the deal by tweeting 18 shamrock emojis. The Celtics have 17 championships:
Celtic Pride!!!!!!— Al Horford (@Al_Horford) July 2, 2016
Still, his decision to leave the Hawks, and sign a four-year deal with the Celtics as opposed to taking the five-year contract Atlanta could offer (but perhaps didn't), comes as a surprise.
"There are a lot of things that we need to address," Horford said, via ESPN, when asked about his free agency following the Hawks' season-ending playoff sweep to the Cavaliers. "But the biggest thing for me is I feel good here. I have a great relationship with Coach. That is important to me and my teammates. Atlanta is a city that welcomed me from the first day. ... I like the way the team is going, I feel like we can win here."
Horford was one of the top available free agents this offseason. Numerous teams, such as the Celtics, Lakers, Wizards and others, were interested in inking him to a long-term deal.
His diverse and unique skill set has played a key role in the Hawks' recent rise to the top of the Eastern Conference's standings. On offense, he sports one of the league's most deadly mid-range jump shots, which helps open up the floor for his teammates. On defense his ability to both protect the rim, defend the post and slide with jitter bugs out on the perimeter helped Atlanta hold opponents to 98.8 points per 100 possessions last season, the second-best mark in the league. His presence should provide a significant boost to the Celtics on both ends of the floor.
As for the Hawks, the team reportedly reportedly considered trading Horford last season. Losing him will hurt their on-court prospects, but the team did add Dwight Howard to a three-year, $70 million deal earlier in free agency. Atlanta is now expected to keep forward Paul Millsap, who was reportedly being shopped to make room for Horford. The Hawks recently traded Jeff Teague to the Pacers for the No. 12 pick, which they used on Baylor's Taurean Prince.