Peter F. Stringer
June 22, 2007
WALTHAM - Al Horford may not be on the board by the time the Celtics pick at #5 next Thursday, but he told reporters that his agent advised him to see several teams and learn more about how the draft process works.
Even if he is the first guy not named Oden or Durant taken at the draft (he works out for the Atlanta Hawks next week), he'll have learned something from working out for teams like the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, who might not have a chance to consider him anyway.
"It's a neat experience. It gives you a chance to see different teams and their facilities, meet with their staff. You never know where you're going to end up. So it's important for players to workout in different places," Horford said, calling the Celtics organization "top of the line."
Despite what he referred to as a "tweak" in his ankle, Horford went through about 90 minutes of drills Friday morning. He didn't work out head-to-head against any of the other players in the gym, but did take a good pounding from Assistant Coach Clifford Ray and a thick yellow pad that was slammed into his back several times as he set up in the post and made his move to the hoop.
"You can see why he's a top consideration in the draft for a lot of teams," Executive Director of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said. "He's a versatile, tough, hard-nosed, hard-working kid."
Celtics Coach Doc Rivers was impressed with Horford, noting his impressive footwork, an important skill for a 6'10" guy.
"He has great feet for a big. That stands out when he runs, you can see it when he does his moves. For bigs, that's something we all look at," Rivers said. "Most bigs are big, he's big and skilled."
At this point, the draft is next Thursday the team has just one more workout planned for Wednesday, although Ainge said he hopes to bring back a few players who've already worked out for the team for a second look if possible. But as the process draws to a close, what have the Celtics learned about the players who've come in to show their stuff?
"They're really good against Clifford Ray," joked Rivers, who later added that he's got two specific guys in mind from the workouts who have impressed him because of their high basketball I.Q. "I pretty much know who I like, but I still think that's dangerous for coaches. It's limited what we get to see. We're not out there at practices during the season, we don't get to go out on the road and watch them live."
Rivers did say that he and Ainge are on the same page when it comes to the guys with whom they've been impressed. And both noted that all three players from Florida (Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah) who've worked out with the Celtics carry themselves in a similar, distinct manner that sets them apart.
"You can see that when they walk in the gym. They won back-to-back titles. They have a great swagger about themselves," Rivers said.
As Danny Ainge approached the media for an interview session, downplaying how busy the last few days may have been, his cell phone started ringing.
While the media was purported at the Celtics' facillity to cover the draft workouts, the question reporters wanted to ask had to do with swirling trade rumors. So after a few cursory questions about Horford, the topic turned to any possible transactions that Ainge may have had in the works this week.
"I'm not going to even begin commenting on that. You guys are wasting your time airing that anyway," Ainge said. "There's so many things on the Internet that start and get out there that aren't even real stories. There's no benefit for me to even speculate on any trade rumors or comment on the feelings of other players. We're happy with our organization and we have a lot of guys who love playing here and that's all I'm going to say about it."