Why Al Horford signed with the Celtics
FIVE REASONS AL HORFORD IS HERE
SALT LAKE CITY -- Sometime in the near future, the newest Boston Celtic -- Al Horford -- will address his decision to leave Atlanta and sign a four-year, $113 million contract with the C's.
Without question there were several contributing factors that were considered by Horford and his camp prior to the nine-year veteran walking away from the only franchise he had ever played for.
In looking at how his free agency began (with a handful of teams) and ended (with the Celtics edging the Washington Wizards and the Hawks, who came hard at him in the 11th hour), here are five likely keys that played a role in Horford’s decision to come to Boston.
It was fitting that when Horford let the world know via Twitter on Saturday night that he had agreed to become a Celtic, he tweeted out a message that included 18 shamrocks . . . a not-so-stealth reference to his focus on helping this franchise win Banner 18.
While playing the tradition card may not be the first thing Danny Ainge and company try to hit free agents with, there’s no mistaking it has value in the eyes of some NBA players. This is especially true for veterans who, for the most part, have more money than they’ll ever spend. Their motivation becomes more about team success, something no NBA franchise knows more about than the Boston Celtics.
4. BRAD STEVENS
You can add Horford to the long, long list of players in the NBA who have expressed their respect and admiration for Brad Stevens. It’s rare in this league that a head coach is a team's most attractive quality. But in this case, Stevens is the ideal face of a franchise trying to sell players on being more about substance than sizzle . . . which, in a lot of ways, is exactly what Horford’s game is about.
3. WANTED: TO BE WANTED
We can talk all day about finding the right fit and such when it comes to free agency, but the one thing all players want is – you guessed it – to be wanted. And that, more than anything else, is why Horford left Atlanta.
When the Hawks signed Dwight Howard to a three-year, $70.5 million deal to play center, a Horford return seemed unlikely. And Atlanta then went out and re-signed Kent Bazemore for four years and $70 million, further solidifying the perception, at least, that Horford was not a top priority.
The Hawks came in late with a near-max offer that Horford certainly had to consider. But the timing of it, coupled with all that the salary shedding Atlanta would have to do in order to make it happen, made it a lot easier for Horford to walk away from the only NBA team he had ever played for.
2. STYLE OF PLAY
A big man with 3-point shooting range as well as an effective low-post game, Horford’s skill set could not be any better suited for Brad Stevens’ system, which relies on playing with pace and space that’s created by having shooters at seemingly every spot on the floor. And, with that, also having defensive versatility.
We know about Horford’s defensive talents, evident by his having a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions he’s on the floor) of 98.2, which was tops among all centers who logged as much playing time as he did. But he's also been a surprisingly consistent offensive force, too. In seven of his nine NBA seasons, Horford has had an offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) of at least 110.0. And his net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) of plus-4.9 was second during the regular season among centers (the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan was tops at plus-10.2).
1. ISAIAH THOMAS
You would be hard-pressed to find a more tireless crusader for adding talent to the Celtics than Isaiah Thomas. All-Star Weekend. Summer league in Seattle. Social media. No matter the place or circumstances, Thomas is always ready to make a sales pitch.
That kind of persistence certainly had to have made a favorable impression on Horford. And while it may not have necessarily been what ultimately led him to coming to Boston, there’s no mistaking that Thomas’ persistence made it difficult for him -- or any other free agent the Celts were pursuing -- not to give serious thought to joining the C's.
And as we saw on Saturday, that persistence paid off in Horford agreeing to sign with the Celtics and, in the process, become arguably the most impressive free-agent acquisition in franchise history. Lots of folks played a role in that coming to fruition, but few were as pivotal as the team's biggest pitch man, Isaiah Thomas.