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Atlanta Hawks’ Al Horford won’t talk new contract until after season

Al Horford is not concerned with his contract status.

That business can wait.

The Hawks center will enter the final year of a contract that will pay him $12 million in 2015-16. He will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Then and only then, Horford said, will he think about his future. The priority is the season at hand.

“My focus right now is to get better individually and help our team be the best team that we can be,” Horford said Tuesday. “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.”

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There figures to be a big payday. Horford’s future as an unrestricted free agent is very bright. Look no further than this offseason and two of his teammates. Paul Millsap signed a three-year, $59 million deal to remain with the Hawks. DeMarre Carroll signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Raptors. Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas reportedly is nearing a four-year, $60 million contract extension after averaging 12.0 points and 8.7 rebounds last season. Horford made his third All-Star team last season and finished with averages of 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds.

The NBA salary cap is expected to jump significantly ahead of the 2016-17 season, with the league’s new TV contract in effect. Horford will be one of the top free agents next summer, with the likes of Kevin Durant and likely LeBron James. In additon, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Horford could only receive a 7.5 percent yearly raise on his $12 million salary in in contract extension.

Hawks management was not available for comment.

Horford has spent all eight of his seasons with the Hawks after they drafted him third overall in 2007. He has career averages of 14.2 points and 9.2 rebounds. Horford has been at the center of the Hawks’ core as the organization has made the playoffs the past eight seasons, the longest active streak in the Eastern Conference.

Horford did miss significant time in 2011-12 and 2013-14 with torn left and right pectoral muscles, respectively. Being healthy makes this such a big offseason, Horford said.

He is looking to improve his play in the post and at the elbow this summer. He has continued this work with Hawks assistant coach Darvin Ham, as both are in the Dominican Republic this week with the league’s Basketball Without Borders program.

“I’m working on my body and working on my basketball,” Horford said of his summer. “I want to expand my game to different things. The most important thing is I’m healthy. I’m looking forward to the season.”

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