Pressure on GM's mounts as free agency, training camp near


Pressure on GM's mounts as free agency, training camp near

Every offseason, there's pressure - lots of pressure - on NBA general managers to go out and find enough talent to compete.

Just imagine that pool of talent being smaller with players defecting to Europe and China.

And the time frame to pursue free agents prior to the start of the season? Not only is it cut down, but it actually starts the same day as training camp.

Welcome to NBA free agency 2011, where GMs will be challenged in ways they never have before.

Few teams have as many holes to fill as the Celtics.

They currently have six players under contract, and a seventh, Jeff Green, is a restricted free agent that the C's have repeatedly said they want to re-sign.

Green shares that same sentiment.

"I would love to be back," he told recently. "But the one thing this lockout has taught all of us players; this is a business first. So we'll see how everything plays out."

Boston also plans to sign its two draft picks from Purdue, JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore.

That would give the Celtics nine players, with the need to add at least four more.

Ainge said earlier that because the C's have so many needs, there's not necessarily a pecking order for what positions they will target first.

"I know it's a cliche, but where we are, we really do have to take the best players because when you look at our numbers, there's a need for us at a lot of positions," Ainge said.

And as far as the short period of time to wheel and deal, Ainge isn't overly concerned about that, either.

"We're no different than anybody else," he said.

He's right.

Just like every other team, Ainge's decision-making will be under even greater scrutiny now. Because putting a championship-caliber team together has to be done quicker than ever.

And in doing so, the so-called GM geniuses will have a chance to prove they are indeed as good as advertised.

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

BOSTON – Al Horford had the kind of game that stands out because of the way he scored from so many different spots on the floor. 

But the true measure of his value to this team usually lies in what he brings to the floor defensively. 

Horford had one of his better games defensively in Boston’s 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which he had a season-high six blocked shots. 

For the season, the four-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 2.9 blocks per game.

He’ll be looking to do more of the same tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

While Philly doesn’t have a player as dominant and difficult to contain as DeMarcus Cousins, their top post player Joel Embiid has been impressive even with a minutes restriction after having missed the last two seasons with injuries and recovery. 

Against Sacramento, he had a season-high six blocked shots which was one short of tying his career high which came against the Kings during the 2010-2011 season. 

Although Horford has ranked among the NBA’s top big men when it comes to blocking shots, the Celtics knew when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract they were adding a player who could help with rim protection. 

The biggest play in the Celtics’ win over Sacramento came in the closing seconds when Horford was credited with blocking DeMarcus Cousins’ shot. Horford was fouled and went to the line and made his free throws to secure the victory. 

“Playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford said. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who was among the Green Teamers to recruit Horford to sign with Boston, seeing him protect the rim the way he did on Friday was no surprise.

“We’ve always known when we recruited him we knew that was what he was good at,” Thomas said. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots and changes them. He’s a hell of a player on both ends of the floor and he played a hell of a game (on Friday).”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens likes what he sees out of Horford defensively, especially now that he plays for Boston and not Atlanta which eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season. 

“He was terrific in our series,” Stevens said. “Terrific. And so, playing him 10 times last year, and so, I mean, I think I’m an idiot but after 10 times I had at least an idea. You know, he’s all over the place and he covers a lot of ground, he calls out calls, and I think he’s a competitive guy. And that proof is in his winning track record.”