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Al Horford won’t pick up player option, will enter unrestricted free agency

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As a key member of Boston’s core, Horford is interested in signing a new contract after not opting in for next season.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Tuesday that ahead of the deadline, Al Horford will not pick up his player option with the Boston Celtics for the 2019-2020 NBA season.

This is not necessarily bad news. The last part of the tweet mentions that Horford is open to returning to Boston with a new contract. Although his $30.1M option for next season is a nice chunk of change, Horford could make that money with more long-term stability over a few years. Not only would this option be better for Horford’s career as he ages into his 30’s, but it also gives Boston more flexibility.

Horford could front-load this contract to reflect salary vs. expected production, or he could choose another route to distribute salary over the next few years. Take less than $30.1M next season could certainly add flexibility to Boston in case Kyrie Irving does, in fact, bolt for Brooklyn. Although Boston won’t dip below the salary cap with just a lower salary for Horford, it would make it easier to make a few trades to be able to re-tool the roster.

If you do factor in Horford to Boston’s plans, and I’d say it’s a safe bet to do that, Bobby Marks also added this tidbit:

There’s also the possibility that Horford leaves to another team this offseason as an unrestricted free agency, but after his comments at the end of the season along with other reports in recent weeks, I would say that it’s a likelier bet that Horford’s priority is to return.

Some of this may depend on Irving, who’s reportedly meeting with the Celtics ahead of the NBA Draft in order to gain more clarity. Whether the Draft or the details of that meeting come first, we should know more about the direction of this team by the end of this week ahead of free agency.