The Hawks put a price on Al Horford's tenure in Atlanta. Six million dollars.
Six stupid million dollars stood between a continuation of what's been built here under Danny Ferry/Wes Wilcox/Mike Budenholzer and who knows what.
SIx million dollars in a cap world where Kent Bazemore just cashed in for 4 years and 70 million dollars. No offense, Baze.
It's seems like a piddling thing to let the Boston (freaking) Celtics walk off with your All-Star Center for nothing in return but a series of tweets from The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski that ended up being wrong. That's right. Mr. Always on the money missed one and, of course, it involves the Hawks, losing Al Horford and losing him to the Boston Celtics.
I don't know what the franchise was thinking here. I don't know if they weighed what this means to their fan base, to their core of players, to what they are trying to do as a franchise. It reminds me of when the Mavericks got technical and let Steve Nash walk away to win MVPs in Phoenix based on god-knows-what that told them they shouldn't.
Al Horford clearly wanted every last dollar out of Atlanta, not wanting to take another discount to stay, but that's his prerogative. He doesn't owe the Hawks a discount, especially in an economic environment where it didn't really hinder the Hawks to go full max.
I really believed that, in the end, both sides would make it work. But now seeing Horford tweet Celtics Pride makes my stomach turn in a way I haven't felt since this franchise traded Dominique.
In that moment, there was a darkness over the franchise that last, for me, quite a long time into the late 90s, before I finally warmed up again. I could definitely see that happening again for me, and others like me. Sure they still have Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard, but this is different. Al Horford was different.
Al Horford was a steal of a pick at number three overall in the 2007 draft. He patiently waited while Mike Woodson, Joe Johnson and company ignored him offensively. But he ran the floor, made himself relevant with his athleticism and hard work, eventually mastered the mid-range jumpshot and efficient passing and turned it into multiple all-star performances as the Hawks rose up, eventually to 50 wins and the Conference Finals.
He was the Atlanta's Tim Duncan, the mild mannered big man with fundamental skills and the type of personality the team was building around. As Ferry, Wilcox and Budenholzer framed and built the team, it was Horford in the middle of it all, the rock, the foundation. Success has never seen the Atlanta Hawks the way it had with Al Horford as its basketball barometer.
Now the Hawks let six million dollars, money that will long be spent and forgotten over the course of five years, allow that guy to wear Celtics colors and help them take a large step up in the conference while the Hawks lose a rudder and scramble to redefine things.
That's not something that's happened to the Spurs over the course of their dominance of the NBA, the franchise allegedly the Hawks were patterning themselves after. Sadly, copies are never as crisp as the original.
Clearly, they didn't feel the same way about Horford as I did, and other fans did, or this wouldn't have happened. To put that kind of limit on Horford meant they weren't fully sold on him being that guy, that something was missing that prevented them fully going all-out to make sure he didn't go to such a bitter rival. There are others who subscribe to this, that Al simply isn't the guy to get the Hawks to the promised land.
But for me, it's a heartbreak, and one I'm not sure I can recover from soon, as I said. They got nothing for Horford other than the relief of not having to scramble to make a deal. And Paul Millsap is going to demand so much more after this next season, and Dennis Schröder is coming soon, so this is not a conversation that's going away.
The franchise took a major, major step backwards today. I feel it in my stomach-punched soul, and it hurts. Real Bad.
The entitled Boston Celtics get an amazing player, no matter what Tommy Heinsohn said about him in the playoffs (that tune will change very quickly), to go with a terrific young coach and a solid core of athletic players. The Hawks get nothing, and that pretty much defines history of the two franchises, both present and future.