Al Horford and Nicolas Batum are free agents at exactly the right time to be a free agent. Both are All-Stars, and both will likely command max contracts on the open market. Both are also players that the Celtics would likely take a long look at in free agency. That is, if they ever seriously hit the market.
Horford and Batum are both done with the playoffs now, and of course they were asked about their free agency plans. It sounds like both of them have an eye towards staying in their current cities, which is pretty smart since both can sign for a year longer by doing so. Horford is talking about team goals and developing a strategy for the summer.
"I’m not thinking about that," Horford said. "We just had a tough loss. My main priority tomorrow is to meet with the team and the coaches one last time (for the season) and go from there and figure out how we can be a better group."
One reason that Horford might consider leaving Atlanta is the lack of a go-to scorer that would put them over the top (hey, that sounds familiar).
But they need help. They need a star. They need a go-to offensive force, somebody who can be counted on the last five minutes of a game, every game.
Batum had a career year for the Hornets and sounds like he's trying to keep the band together in Charlotte.
When asked if he wants to return next year, Batum said, "Why not?," saying this past season was one of the most enjoyable of his eight-year NBA career. He liked the freedom Clifford gave him and the idea of being one of first two options on offense. "I want to talk to (the Hornets) first, for sure," Batum said of free agency. "July 1 will be a crazy day, but will Charlotte be my first call? Yes." However, Batum indicated he only wants to return if the Hornets make an effort to bring back the nucleus of this year’s team.
Clearly actions speak louder than words, and people have been known to change their minds. But free agents typically follow the money. Horford and Batum are in the primes of their careers and have the opportunity to get long-term max contracts--which is the goal of most players.
Some megawatt stars will take shorter contracts so that they have more control over their team's decisions (see LeBron), but that strategy trades the risk of injury for the chance to keep signing for bigger dollars as the cap rises. For most players, it is still the better option to take the guaranteed big bucks unless the situation they are leaving is toxic or confining.
I fully expect Horford and Batum (and a number of other free agents) to quickly agree to deals to stay with their current teams. But, you never know.
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