BOSTON (CBS) — Al Horford said his decision to opt out of his deal with the Celtics was a difficult one to make. The 76ers made his decision to move to Philly pretty simple, though.
Horford said farewell to Boston on social media on Wednesday, and hello to Philadelphia on Friday. The big man was introduced by his new team after signing a new four-year, $109-million contract last week.
When the veteran opted out of his final year with the Celtics, which would have paid him $30.1 million for next season, it was expected that the two sides would agree to a three-year deal. Horford would get a few more years of guaranteed money, and the Celtics could lower his payday in the process, which would help the team fill out the roster following the departure of Kyrie Irving.
That, of course, did not come to fruition, as the 76ers swooped in and stole one of their rival’s most consistent and likable players.
“When I decided to opt out, it wasn’t an easy decision, but I did it and I felt like there was going to be a lot of options for me,” Horford said Friday in Philadelphia. “When June 30 came around, things escalated very, very quickly. There were multiple teams, a lot of strong interest, and I had to make what was the best decision for me.”
Philadelphia pounced at the chance to add Horford to their young team, and their pact was announced just a few hours after NBA free agency opened.
“When [76ers GM] Elton [Brand] called and spoke with my agent, he laid down his offer, and I was very surprised there was that strong interest for me,” said Horford. “It made the decision very easy.”
It’s hard to fault Horford for taking a contract that includes $97 million in guaranteed money, especially with all the uncertainty that surrounded Boston following Irving’s departure. And without Horford leaving, the Celtics wouldn’t have been able to sign point guard Kemba Walker to a max deal this summer.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to accept that Horford will now be wearing the laundry of one of Boston’s biggest rivals, one that hopes the veteran’s steady presence alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will finally get them over the hump in the playoffs.
“I think opportunity to play for this type of organization, for this city, was something that I really had to consider and look at,” Horford said. “We’ve got a good group here. I feel really good about our future.”