OFFSEASON

Where do the Celtics go from here?

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Where do the Celtics go from here?

BOSTON You can never say never when it comes to a team hitting rock bottom, but the Boston Celtics?

They are easily at their nadir in this new age of Celtics basketball that began prior to the 2007-2008 championship season.

We reference to that point in time because that was the beginning of the Celtics renaissance, a time when the C's went from being a team relevant only because of their big-market status, to one that mattered because they were beating up any and every team that crossed their path.

In the years since, we have seen a gradual erosion of them slipping from such a lofty perch.

There's a long list of reasons why, but here's a snapshot.

Not re-signing James Posey.

Trading away Kendrick Perkins.

Not pursuing Tony Allen with more vigor.

Role players that at the time may have seemed expendable, serve as a reminder as to how fragile team chemistry - championship team chemistry - can be.

And if that doesn't convince you, look at the C's roster right now.

In terms of individual talent, this is by far the best team that Doc Rivers has had to work with.

And yet here they are, three games below .500, losers of six straight, and showing no signs of putting together the kind of consistent play needed to be successful.

Can it get any worse?

Well, yes it can.

The worst thing the Celtics can do right now is over-react which would be to make changes that don't necessarily address their many issues.

Their biggest issue remains playing consistent, something that's not necessarily going to be fixed by adding a player or two.

Boston doesn't need to add more talent.

They need to find better ways to play with the talent they have assembled, because the bulk of the losses they have suffered this year had nothing to do with the other team having better players.

So much of the attention to their struggles has focused on the players, but more and more will shift towards Rivers who admittedly has not done as good a job with this group as he has with previous Celtics teams.

Before you start thinking Rivers' job is in jeopardy, remember this.

The man lost 18 straight and still kept his job, and the people that stuck by him then are still around and are unlikely to make a change anytime soon even if the losing continues temporarily.

So for the Rivers haters out there - and yes, I have heard you loud and clear - him being cut loose is one of the more unlikely scenarios for this team.

As tough as this may be for Celtics fans to hear, this team's best hope for escaping this season-long malaise they have been in has to come from within that locker room.

Aside from moving one of the new Big Three - Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce or Rajon Rondo - the C's don't have the kind of assets to pool together and land an impact, all-star caliber player which is the only type of addition they could make that could potentially turn this thing around from the outside.

You're not going to land Pau Gasol for end-of-the-bench guys or underperforming players at that position.

Trades generally don't work like that unless you're talking about a salary dump.

And the Celtics are not looking to make any deals that will add significantly to their payroll so that to some degree limits what they will look to do between now and next month's trading deadline.

Garnett's no-trade clause takes him out of the equation. As for Pierce and Rondo, the C's won't get anything close to fair market value for either player.

So to lose two of your biggest assets and not get comparable talent in return, puts you back exactly where you are now - a team that's not good enough to win at the highest levels.

And if you make major changes, team chemistry becomes an even bigger issue than it is now.

So where does that leave the Celtics?

Well, there's still some things that Rivers has not tried enough or at all, that have the potential to not only jump-start them to some wins but maybe light a fire under some guys and potentially pay off when the games matter most - the postseason.

One of the first things he needs to do is rely more on the "eye test" and less on what players have done in the past.

That means you still give the guys you feel can get it a done a chance to perform, but when it becomes clear that certain players are getting it done on a particular night better than other, more established players, stick with the guys who are making it happen that night a little longer.

Of all the mistakes made in Boston's loss at Atlanta, that might have been the most glaring and frankly, most costly.

Jeff Green was having a strong night in the first half on Friday, but Courtney Lee's aggressive play at both ends of the floor in the first half was an even bigger part of the C's pulling ahead by 27 points.

In the pivotal third quarter when the Hawks got back in the game, Lee did not play a single minute.

Not one minute.

Rivers made the mistake of riding Rajon Rondo the entire third quarter, even as the game's control continued to slip away from Boston with Rondo at the helm.

Rivers has to do a better job of recognizing that there will be nights when Rondo, as important as he is to this team's overall success, needs to play fewer minutes and others need to play.

Friday night was one of those nights.

As complicated as we tend to make things, it really should be as simple as riding the hot, aggressive hands until they get visibly fatigued or give you reason to go in another direction.

The Celtics have to do something to change their up-and-down, inconsistent-playing ways, and it has to be done soon. Otherwise they will continue to struggle, lose games they shouldn't, frustrate their fan base and inch closer to returning to a time when losses became an accepted way of life around here - which is exactly what a team that has hit rock bottom has to fight against happening.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics hoping to sign Horford, bring him to Durant meeting

Report: Celtics hoping to sign Horford, bring him to Durant meeting

The Celtics met with Al Horford Friday and it appears they’re trying to get him to sign before their meeting on Saturday with Kevin Durant.

Multiple outlets have already suggested that theory, but Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy tweeted late Friday that’s actually what the Celtics are attempting to do. It's similar to what the Suns tried last summer by signing Tyson Chandler and then bringing him to their meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge. They almost did have Aldridge signed, but he changed his mind over the 48 hours between his meeting and his decision.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, it sounds like Horford wants to take the weekend before deciding, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

If the Celtics are able to get Horford agree to a max contract Friday, it’d likely be a huge boost to their chances of signing Durant. But they might have to wait a bit.

OFFSEASON

Celtics "emerged as a front-runner" for Al Horford

Celtics "emerged as a front-runner" for Al Horford

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are poised to do the seemingly unthinkable: acquire an elite free agent in their prime. 

The Celtics are meeting with four-time all-star Al Horford tonight and as one league executive told CSNNE.com, Boston has emerged as a front-runner for his services after the Atlanta Hawks came to terms on a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Dwight Howard. 

And the Celtics will come armed with a four-year, $113 million max-salary offer for the 30-year-old Horford as well.   

In addition to the Celtics, Horford is also reportedly considering signing with the Houston Rockets.

Acquiring Horford would bolster the Celtics’ franchise on multiple levels. For starters, he would provide an upgrade roster-wise to a team whose progress has leveled out the last couple of seasons with first-round playoff exits.

Adding Horford greatly enhances the Celtics’ chances at making a playoff run that extends beyond just the first round. Adding Horford also provides the first real tangible sign that the days of Boston being perceived as no man’s land when it comes to free agents are in the past.

In addition, Horford’s leadership on the floor and inside the locker room can only strengthen a culture that’s deeply rooted in accountability.

But as the Celtics approach their recruitment of Horford with cautious optimism, they know all too well that they can’t afford to take anything involved in wooing him for granted.

While the Rockets may appear to be a team that Boston doesn’t have to worry too much about when it comes to Horford, there is one wild card franchise out there: Oklahoma City.

They’re the odds-on favorite to re-sign Kevin Durant, and adding a player like Horford to the roster could only strengthen their chances of keeping him long-term.

Oklahoma City has explored possible trade opportunities centered around Enes Kanter, which could go far in freeing up space to pursue Horford.

And as one of the six teams that Durant will meet with this weekend, the Celtics are well aware of the minefield that awaits them in trying to secure Horford as well as their top target, Durant.

The fact that Boston is on the short list for the top two free agents out there (Durant and Horford), speaks volumes as to how far this franchise has come from a perception standpoint in the eyes of the league’s best players.

Both Horford and Durant have talked in glowing terms about the Celtics franchise, head coach Brad Stevens and the players.

And the Celtics have made no secret about wanting both to eventually become Celtics, something that now stands as a legit possibility with Boston well in the mix for both players.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN