Al Horford surprised most people around the NBA when his contract extension talks fell apart with the Celtics before the NBA Draft.
Boston was expected to sign the five-time All-Star to a three-year deal at a lower salary than the $30.1 million player option he declined, but Horford reportedly had a four-year offer worth up to $100 million from an unknown team, resulting in his choice to walk away.
Horford's eventual exit opened up cap space for the Celtics to go after Kemba Walker with a max contract offer, which is expected to be agreed to once free agency begins Sunday at 6 p.m. But nobody really knows what Horford's up to. The Kings, Clippers, Mavericks and Sixers have all had reported interest in him, but nothing has materialized past that point. Not only that, but Mark Murphy reported Sunday that Horford has yet to take any meetings with other teams.
There is an apparent "mystery team" that has the inside track on signing him, but obviously, nobody knows who that is yet. According to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, some NBA executives believe the Celtics are that mystery team.
If the Celtics sign Walker to a max contract, they wouldn't have the necessary cap space to bring Horford back, especially if he's looking for a sizeable four-year contract. O'Connor mentions a three-team sign-and-trade scenario involving the Celtics, Hornets and Nets.
If the Celtics trade Kyrie Irving to the Nets and send Terry Rozier to the Hornets, they can receive Walker from Charlotte without having to renounce the rights to Horford. This would allow them to re-sign him to a contract using his bird rights, which allow teams to exceed the cap to retain their players.
It's an incredibly complicated scenario that would require cooperation from the Nets, who have no reason to help the Celtics get better, and the Hornets who may not feel great about the team stealing away its franchise player. The Celtics would likely have to include draft picks in those deals to incentivize their cooperation, and that may have to involve a fourth team.
While there are a ton of things that have to go right here, it is of the belief that the Celtics are trying to make a big move to secure Walker and re-sign Horford as a means to stay in position to contend despite what should have been a disastrous exit from Irving.
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