With Al Horford In Tow, Celtics Proving Rebuild, City Are On The Rise

All right, Boston Celtics fans. All at once: exhale.

Boy this feels good, doesn’t it?

In case you missed it, the Celtics pulled off quite a coup Saturday night, agreeing to a reported four-year, $113 million max contract with former Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford.

Horford putting his faith in Danny Ainge and Co. does several things. For starters, the Celtics’ post-championship rebuild just lept forward with the acquisition of the four-time All-Star. That Horford would choose Boston over Atlanta, the team that eliminated the Celtics from the playoffs for the first time in his nine-year NBA career, says a lot about his faith in the Celtics’ current core roster of players and coach Brad Stevens’ system.

But it means so much more than just the simple x’s and o’s.

Boston, for all the buzz about being a great sports town and the nine championships the four major sports teams have won since the turn of the century, has never been a “desirable” destination for free agents.

Historically, the region has a bad reputation for racism, despite the fact that most would agree it’s long been a thing of the past. The frigid temperatures in the winter are brutal, never mind the ever-looming potential for seven feet of snow. We have high taxes and “masshole” drivers and a slightly unnerving obsession with Dunkin’ Donuts.

Oh, and no major free agent has ever come here, let alone truly wanting to.

Sure, Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal joined the Celtics … while chasing a ring during his final year in the league. Great players, like Kevin Garnett himself, have re-signed with the team after their arrival. And a slew of great players have been drafted by or traded to Boston only to ascend to stardom. But the general belief has long been that no marquee free agents are walking through that door.

Until now.

Getting Horford’s John Hancock on the dotted line sends a message to every player in the NBA — Kevin Durant included — that Boston’s a place you should want to play, and that this group of scrappy, hungry, hustling ballers is a band of brothers who can win.

Maybe Durant doesn’t sign here this year, next year or at all. But someone else will, because Horford, a Dominican, All-NBA-caliber player,  just let everyone know that they can.

On the eve of a historical glut of free agent money being handed out across the NBA, some experts noted that no general manager wanted to take the first step and hand out the first potentially ridiculous contract. Once the floodgates opened, though, nothing has stopped the cash from flowing.

Al Horford just opened the floodgates to Boston. Only time will tell what (or who) comes next, but now — as a famous old friend once told us — anything’s possible.

Thumbnail photo via Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports Images

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