Turning down the heat on your Al Horford takes

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Turning down the heat on your Al Horford takes

Let’s start with a few disclaimers:

1.    I will not be naming the people whose takes I will be addressing. It’s not because I care about their feelings, it’s mostly because I’m not in that poor of a mood right now.

2.    I think it’s completely fair to criticize the performance of professional athletes, but I also think it’s completely fair for me to criticize your criticism. And you can criticize my criticism of the criticism if you feel like it in the comments below. Got it?

Let’s start with this tweet from earlier this week:

“When you're paying someone almost 30 million a year and he absolutely sucks against the teams you have to eventually beat to get out of your conference or even win a championship you have real problem!!!! i wish KG could turn back time and come back.”

Aside from the obvious -- KG’s not walking through that door -- this take got me thinking. Does Al Horford suck against the teams the Celtics will eventually need to beat to get out of the East? So I looked it up. 

Here are Al’s numbers vs the teams currently in playoff position in the Eastern conference compared to his overall regular-season averages.

As you can see his numbers are pretty close, and in most cases better,  against the East playoff teams, although averaging 0.2 rebounds fewer vs those teams probably means he’s mentally weak.

In the spirit of fairness, Al has only averaged 10.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 5 meetings vs Toronto and Cleveland combined this season. Those are lower than his season averages; however, saying he sucks vs them is a bit of a stretch when you consider only 12 players in the NBA are averaging 10-plus points, 6-plus rebounds and 4-plus assists this season.

The part about his salary is comical because that’s what the cost of signing a max free agent was in the summer of 2016. You don’t get Horford if you don’t pay him. Max contracts are based on percentage of the salary cap, so as the cap goes up (like it did that summer) the salaries do as well. Max deals signed the summer before Horford’s will be less because the cap spike from $70 million in 2015 to $94 million in 2017. Context matters folks.
Moving on, this was in an article that was published by the Big Lead on Wednesday: 

"He’s the 11th-highest paid player in the NBA, but is the 105th in points per game (12.8), 36th in rebounds (7.5), 36th in assists (4.9)"

What my friend fails to mention is that, while those statements are true about his per-game averages, Horford is one of just nine players in the NBA to average 12-plus points, 7-plus rebounds and 4-plus assists this season. He’s also fifth in 3-point field goal percentage, third among centers in assists per game, fifth in Defensive Win shares and seventh in Defensive Box Plus/Minus. In basketball there really isn’t one stat to rule them all, so when making statements about a player’s worth it’s best to look at a broad swath of relevant categories.

My argument is the same about the money. Context matters, and that was the cost of signing the biggest free agent in franchise history (at the time).

And finally, my favorite take of all from a tweet I received on Wednesday:

“…the truth is he can't guard any good centers, being abused by elite centers, can't protect the paint, soft as [inappropriate non expletive]. He's trash if we talk about highest paid player.”

This one blew me away. Say what you want about Horford’s lack of aggression on the offensive end, or even his rebounding, but saying he can’t guard any good centers or that he gets abused by elite centers is just factually inaccurate. Take this for data:

Of the eight other bigs named to the All-Star team this year, Karl-Anthony Towns (62.5%) and Andre Drummond (69.2%. . .  nice) are the only two to shoot better than their season FG% when defended by Al Horford this season.

I understand that trolls are gonna troll, but it’s this type of lazy trolling that led to the sinking of the Titanic (google it). 

It’s fair to criticize players for poor performances, and Horford himself admitted he hasn’t been playing up to his own standards lately, but can we please keep the hot takes reality based? 

If you stumble upon any outrageous takes that seem a little too hot please drop me a line on Twitter @max_lederman.


Celtics-Thunder preview: Balancing rest and rhythm

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Balancing rest and rhythm

BOSTON – With the NBA playoffs looming, this is a tricky time of year for most of the league’s playoff-bound teams. 

Both players and coaches want to head into the postseason well-rested. 

But they also want to be in a good playing rhythm.

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Injuries have forced the Boston Celtics to sit some players who are likely to be able to play (and well-rested) when the playoffs. 

And tonight’s foe, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are in a similar situation as well. 

“It's something you're walking a tightrope on all the time, where a guy is really rested but you've taken him out of rhythm,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “The biggest thing is, there's gotta be communication between the players and the medical staff, coaches, of where guys are, what they need.

Donovan added, “I think rest this time of year would help any player, but there's a balance between maybe getting too much rest and maybe getting out of rhythm. The players are always walking that line during the course of the year, because you kind of get into a rhythm of playing every other day, you get into that, and then there's a back to back here or there, and you get three games in four nights, but yeah. You try to best as you can with your players, help them balance that the best they can.”

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook can see how some players might need to strike a balance between getting enough rest late in the season while maintaining a good playing rhythm.  

So, I asked him which is his preference?

“I prefer to play,” he said. “Rhythm and all that (expletive), it’s in your mind.”

For Westbrook, maybe so. 

But it is very real to a number of players in the NBA, among them being his teammate and fellow All-Star Paul George. 

“If you know why you’re in the gym and the work you’re getting, you lock in,” George said. “You prepare, get your work done. And you get off your legs, get off our feet and get your rest. It’s easy to balance the two when you know what exactly you’re doing and you know exactly what you need to do.”

Boston has worked to strike that balance with Kyrie Irving all season.

That’s why the five-time All-Star is averaging 24.4 points per game which is 11th in the league. However, he’s doing it in 32.2 minutes which ranks 55th in the league in minutes played per game. 

Lately, Irving has gotten more time off than he would like as he deals with a sore left knee that has kept him sidelined for the Celtics’ last three games. 

It doesn’t appear to be something that will limit him now.

However, having him sit out games now increases the likelihood that he’ll be ready to roll at or near full strength, when the playoffs arrive. 

Boston is also playing without Jaylen Brown who suffered a concussion when he fell on his back following a dunk at Houston on March 3. He is expected to return at some point between now and the end of the regular season which could be a blessing in disguise for the 6-foot-7 Brown who will be called upon to not only remain Boston’s next-best scoring option to Kyrie Irving, but also defend at a high level. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged that they have given thought to how to find that happy medium between resting guys while ensuring as best they can, that players will be refreshed for the playoffs. 

“We haven’t been in that situation very often, where we choose to do rest except for that stretch in December when we rested Al (Horford),” Stevens said. “But everything else has kind of happened organically with guys being dinged up or whatever the case may be. I think that’s … we’ll probably be in a situation where we will continue to have those discussions.”


Thunder not taking shorthanded Celtics for granted

Thunder not taking shorthanded Celtics for granted

Oklahoma City All-Star Paul George knows the Boston Celtics team he and his Thunder teammates will face tomorrow night, won’t be at full strength.

But he’s wise enough to know if you focus too much on an opponent’s key losses to their roster, that same team can potentially hand you a loss which is the last thing the Thunder need right now in what’s shaping up to be a tightly contested Western Conference playoff race.

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Currently fourth in the standings, only four games separate teams No. 3-8. Only Houston (56-14) and Golden State (53-17) have secured a postseason berth. 

Which means the Celtics won’t catch Oklahoma City sleeping on them heading into tomorrow night’s game. 

“We are going to address it the same way regardless of who's in there,” George said. “We got to pick these games up. We lost the game on our floor earlier this season.”

But that was early in the season when the Thunder were still trying to figure out how its newly formed core of Russell Westbrook, George and Carmelo Anthony, could mesh.

Oklahoma City has gotten stronger as the season progressed, and are one of the hottest teams around with six straight wins, the most recent being a 132-125 victory at Eastern Conference-leading Toronto. 

Meanwhile, Boston (47-23) has lost its last two games and three of four so from a momentum standpoint, the Thunder have every reason to feel as though they’ll emerge victorious tomorrow night. 

And they also have added motivation from their Nov. 3 matchup with the Celtics in Oklahoma City that ended with a 101-94 win for Boston. 

Westbrook had 19 points and 11 assists in that game but shot 7-for-20 from the field. Carmelo Anthony had 14 points but did so on a woeful 3-for-17 shooting. And then there was George’s 25 points on 9-for-20 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. 

“We have to show who we are,” George said.

Who they are, is a team that’s fighting for home court in at least the first round of the playoffs where they are currently fourth in the West. 

And their success in the last six games has been fueled by strong play at both ends of the floor. 


In that stretch, Oklahoma City is averaging 116.2 points which ranks second in the NBA during that span. Defensively, they are allowing 104.5 points which is the 10th-fewest allowed in the last six games.

“Just making the right plays, offensively and defensively” is how Westbrook described the team’s recent run of success. 

And the Thunder have every intention of keeping it going against a beat-up Celtics squad that they know they can’t take lightly. 

“Again, we are playing really well,” George said. “A step back if we lose no matter who's in or who's out would hurt us.”