ATLANTA (AP) - The Atlanta Hawks agreed Monday to a five-year, $60 million contract extension with All-Star center Al Horford.
The team reached the deal with Horford just ahead of a deadline that would have opened the door for one of their stalwart players to become a restricted free agent next summer. Horford confirmed the terms in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
"I wanted to get it done for security and just to focus on the team this year," Horford wrote while en route to Cleveland, where the Hawks (3-0) face the Cavaliers on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old Horford was the No. 3 overall pick in 2007 out of Florida, helping the Gators win back-to-back national championships. He quickly established himself as one of the team's most valuable players, even as an undersized center who had to outwork many of the bigger players he went against.
Horford finished second in the NBA rookie of the year voting to Kevin Durant. Last season, the Atlanta player averaged career highs in points (14.2) and rebounds (9.9) while becoming the first Hawks draft pick to make the All-Star Game since Kevin Willis in 1992. He finished eighth in the shooting percentage (.551) and also was among the top 10 in rebounding.
"From the moment he arrived in Atlanta, Al has been a large part of our success," general manager Rick Sund said in a statement. "The winning tradition he brought to the franchise as a rookie out of Florida has extended to three consecutive playoff seasons in a Hawks uniform. In addition, he was deservedly recognized as an All-Star last year, and we certainly look forward to his continued development as we move forward."
The Hawks were eager to lock up another member of their core group after re-signing Joe Johnson to a maximum $124 million deal over the summer. In recent years, the team also has reached hefty, multiyear deals with Josh Smith and Marvin Williams.
With the signing of Horford, Atlanta can turn its attention to guard Jamal Crawford, winner of last year's sixth man of the year award. He is eligible for free agency after the season and expressed a desire to remain with the Hawks after making the playoffs for the first time in his career.