Even though Al Horford wasn’t officially a Celtic at the time of Friday’s introductory press conference due to his contract not being finalized, the mere image of the 6-foot-10 center sitting next to Wyc Grousbeck, Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens marked a big step in bringing Boston basketball back to prominence.
Stevens talked about how Horford’s shooting ability and size will help the Celtics offense.
“I think that [Horford’s] hard work and his adaptability to the way the game has been played in a lot of ways has just enhanced him even more by adding to what was probably one of the better mid-range shots in the league to extending that range and being not only a reasonable 3-point shooter, but a good 3-point shooter and a guy that is constantly thinking about now adding to perfecting that,” Stevens said. “I think that anytime that you have the opportunity to pop, roll or play in the seam [off the pick-and-roll] is a huge advantage and he is excellent at all three and the numbers bear that out. We play through our bigs a lot and that is something we have desire to continue to do. It is great from a fit standpoint in a lot of ways, but certainty in the way that we play.”
More importantly, Horford marks the first big-name free agent the Celtics have been able to attract — and Horford indicated he expects more will follow.
“It is a great organization. There is a lot of history here. I feel like everyone around the league respects it, we acknowledge it and that is a big part of the reason why I chose to come here,” Horford said. “In years to come I feel like this will open the doors for many other big free agents. You have to consider this is a special place and I think people that are open to it they will see how special this place is.”
Grousbeck seconded the notion that Horford is only the first piece in the Celtics’ quest for superstars, and he downplayed the notion that there is a negative perception of Boston around the NBA.
“I never really believed that because I thought Kevin Garnett chose to come to us and he had to sort of agree to the whole thing back in ’07,” Grousbeck said in a post-press conference interview on CSNNE. “Al coming here sends a signal around that league that he himself said in the press conference. I think this going to open the door for other guys to come here, it is a great place to be.”
One of the big free agents the Celtics were targeting this offseason but were unable to land was Kevin Durant. Horford acknowledged that he spoke with Durant during the free agent process.
“I talked to Kevin. I can’t speak for him now, but I would have to say that he definitely considered the possibility [of coming to Boston],” Horford told CSNNE. “At the end of the day he had to do what was best for him, but yeah, during the offseason I definitely talked to him and several other free agents.”
Even though not getting Durant put a damper on the Celtics offseason, Ainge noted that the team continues to look for ways to get better.
“We felt like last year we were rightfully the third seed in the Eastern Conference and the addition of Al makes us better team for sure with his versatility, experience and leadership that we have all talked about today, but I think we are not done. We still have work to do,” Ainge said.