On Tuesday, Atlanta Hawks big man Al Horford "made news" with the promise that he would not discuss a contract extension prior to the 2015-2016 season. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution brings the direct quote from Horford:
"My focus right now is to get better individually and help our team be the best team that we can be. I have the same mindset and that is to help our team win and put us in a good position and try to be better."
"As far as the contract stuff, I’m going to wait until the season is over. I’m not going to let that linger and be a distraction. The focus is to be on the Hawks, on our team and getting better. Once the season ends, we’ll be able to sit down and talk and figure out all of that."
These statements were met with abject panic from some fans of the Hawks, but in reality, there should be no surprise here. In short, Al Horford has almost no incentive to even think about a long-term deal.
Because of the NBA's growing salary cap and current CBA, Horford's only method of negotiation right now would be via contract extension. What most casual fans don't realize is that, well, the numbers that could be thrown around would be far too low for Horford to accept:
Maximum amount for Horford extension, $12.9,$13.8,$14.7, Starting max for 2016-17 projected to be $25m for 7-9 years of service.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 18, 2015
Given that Horford is in line (barring severe injury) for a max-level extension prior to the 2016-2017 season, he would be giving up tens of millions of dollars in order to take a pact with Atlanta right now. This simply isn't a feasible scenario for Horford or his agent, and while the big man has spent his entire professional career in Atlanta, the Hawks will be bidding along with the rest of the league for his services.
On the "bright" side for the Hawks and the new-look front office, Atlanta has the ability to offer Horford an additional year and larger raises per season by nature of having his Bird Rights. That should, at least in theory, give the hometown team a leg up on the competition, but until the 2015-2016 season is complete, any discussion of Horford's future will be pure conjecture.
It isn't time to panic (yet), but Hawks fans must realize that Horford staying in Atlanta isn't a done deal after 2015-2016.
Unless he wants it to be.