Blakely: Horford proves free agents aren't overlooking Celtics anymore

Blakely: Horford proves free agents aren't overlooking Celtics anymore

LAS VEGAS – There is no such thing as a participation trophy in the NBA, especially when it comes to free agency.

So the fact that the Boston Celtics made the short list of teams Kevin Durant considered before ultimately choosing to take his ridiculously, off the chain talents to Golden State means very little in the grand scheme of achieving the ultimate goal which is to land a difference-making, high-impact player.

But having said that, the Boston Celtics have every reason to feel good about what they were able to accomplish this offseason; an offseason that still has plenty of time for more deals to be made.

Durant was the runaway leader of the pack this summer in terms of free agents, while Al Horford was arguably the next-best player.

To be on the short list for both players speaks to how the image so many free agents have had of Boston is slowly changing.

No longer is Boston overlooked when free agents are trying to figure out where to play next.

“They didn’t get Durant, but getting Al at least lets you know they can sell a player, a really good player, on coming to Boston,” an agent told CSNNE.com. “And they did so with competition. It wasn’t like nobody else wanted Al. They should feel good about that get.”

But the Celtics are not a team that’s content with just feeling good about their status.

“They don’t call Boston the City of Champions for nothing" Tweeted Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, one of many pitches tossed Durant’s way by Boston professional athletes.

Ortiz is right.

This is a city of champions, a place where winning at the highest of levels around here makes you a god in the eyes of fans and the respective franchises.

But this is especially true for the Boston Celtics, a franchise whose rafters are filled with players who did more than just score and rebound . . . they won titles.

And it is that kind of win-or-go-home mindset that on many levels separates the Boston Celtics from most NBA franchises.

Of course Boston has had its share of lean times.

But even in the midst of struggles, their fan base has shown a never-ending, Teflon-tight support for them.

That’s what Al Horford is walking into, a franchise that will root incessantly for him to do well, and show absolutely no mercy when he’s struggling.

All teams have fans who care about them, but there’s a different level of passion that exists between the Celtics and their die-hard fans.

That’s why players, regardless of how long they stay in Boston, always come away with that reality.

And that’s why now that Boston is clearly trending towards becoming a power player in the East, players will continue to flock to the Celtics.

But in order for that to happen, there had to be a first to set it in motion.

That player is Al Horford.

This is the new reality for the Boston Celtics, a franchise that’s out to win over free agents and not just be a participant in the process. 

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

AP Photo

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

BOSTON -- As I made my way towards the Boston Celtics locker room following their 100-99 win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, I walked past co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, who, as you might expect, was pleased with what he had just witnessed.
“That was a good one,” he said.
That’s one way to describe it.


But explaining the Houdini-like way the Celtics seem to get out of some serious jams over and over again, and against really good teams, is indeed a head-scratcher for most.
It’s getting to the point where we’re running out of fresh adjectives to describe this team, which has a knack for the comeback.
“Improbable” doesn’t do justice to how Boston’s hit-the-lottery luck has played out so often on nights when it seemed on the doorstep of defeat.
And this town loves a good comeback story, whether it’s Tom Brady leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl win after being down by 25 points, or the Celtics spotting the NBA champ Golden State Warriors a 17-point cushion before rallying for a meaningful November win -- a rarity in the NBA.
But the obscure and unexpected have become standard in this seemingly alternate basketball universe that the Celtics play in, one that we have been bearing witness to all season.

I mean, look at their body of work:

DECEMBER 18: Down by one on the road at Indiana in the closing seconds of play in what appears to be a tough road loss, Terry Rozier steals and races down the floor looking like Deion Sanders in high-tops, for a game-winning dunk.

DECEMBER 28: Trailing the Houston Rockets by 26 points in the third quarter, they rally back and steal the win with not one, but two offensive fouls drawn in the last minute by Marcus Smart against perennial league MVP candidate James Harden.

JANUARY 11: In London, they erased a 22-point deficit and defeated Philly.

FEBRUARY 4: There was a buzzer-beater by Al Horford to beat Portland on Super Bowl Sunday.

And . . . well, you get the idea.

Boston has six wins by a single point this season, which is tied with Miami for the season lead and is one shy of tying the franchise record for one-point wins in a season. 

In addition, Boston has won 10 games this season in which it fell behind by 12 or more points. 
Winning so many games under less-than-ideal circumstances has not only padded the Celtics' win total, but also reinforced this team with a Teflon-strong mindset. They believe they're tthe ultimate practitioner of basketball necromancy, consistently finding a way to rise up from the basketball graveyard of defeat and win in dramatic fashion.

Like they did Tuesday night against the Thunder.

How can you bank on Carmelo Anthony, a career 81.2 percent free-throw shooter, missing a pair with less than nine seconds to play?
Or botching the play Brad Stevens drew up at the end of the game -- "We kind of messed [it] up," said Jayson Tatum -- but, rather than it leading to a turnover, instead becoming a game-winning 3-pointer by Marcus Morris with 1.8 seconds to spare? 


 It was another crazy ending in what has been a season filled with bizarre finishes, jaw-dropping rallies and a never-say-it’s-over brand of basketball that has kept Celtics fans on the edge of their seats all season.
“It’s great to be in a situation where you’re down six with under a minute to play or whatever it was, and you find a way to win the game,” said Stevens. “That’s going to be pretty unique, but they just kept playing the next possession and we were fortunate that that shot went down. That was a heck of a shot by Marcus."
A heck of a shot?
But in this bizarro world of Celtics basketball this season, it was predictable as the Thunder became yet another team to play Boston and leave wondering the same thing most Celtics fans do … “Did THAT just happen?


Kevin Garnett predicts Marcus Morris' game-winner right before it happens

Kevin Garnett predicts Marcus Morris' game-winner right before it happens

Kevin Garnett was paying close attention to Tuesday night's thriller between the Celtics and Thunder.

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On KG's Area 21, the former Celtics great watched as Boston rallied in the game's final minute to make a stunning comeback. Right before Marcus Morris drilled the game-winner, Garnett called it by saying, "The Morris twin will end up shooting this or something because he like 'yeah I'm about the moment'"

Not a bad call. Morris certainly was "about the moment" Tuesday night as he has been multiple times this season.