Al Jefferson declines to opt out, will return to Hornets next season

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Al Jefferson could have become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but decided to take his $13.5 million player option to remain with the Hornets for an additional season.

Jefferson said it was highly unlikely that he’d opt out to explore the market, and with the deadline to do so just a day away, his agent made it official.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

Facing a Monday deadline to invoke the final remaining season on his contract or opt for free agency, Charlotte Hornets big man Al Jefferson is staying right where he is, according to his agent.

Jeff Schwartz, Jefferson’s longtime agent, told ESPN.com he will formally notify the Hornets that his 30-year-old client will delay his next foray in free agency for one more year.

There are a couple of reasons that this makes a lot of sense.

First off, Jefferson completed what for him would be considered a down season; his averages of 16.6 points and 8.4 rebounds were the lowest they’d been in eight years. And, Jefferson missed 17 games due to injury, including the last seven of the season after “hearing a pop” in his calf/knee area which, even if he had returned, would have kept him at less than 100 percent.

The combination of being injured to end the season along with a slowed level of production doesn’t bode well for a player looking for a huge payday in free agency. Add in the fact that the salary cap is going to spike the following summer, and it’s clear that Jefferson made the easy choice.