The first part of Al Horford’s summer was personal. Now he will get down to the business of improving his game and maybe later think about a contract extension with the Hawks.
First, the personal: Al was scheduled to return to Atlanta yesterday after participating in Basketball Without Borders in Singapore last week. Al went to Mexico as part of the program last season but made his first-ever trip to Asia. Joining him in Singapore were Trevor Ariza, Francisco Garcia (Go Cards), Corey Brewer and Taj Gibson.
“It’s been a great experience for me so far,” Al said from Singapore. “I think we have made the most of it here, helping the kids and a doing a lot of activities with the NBA. I’ve had a blast. The Singapore people are excited about basketball here. The campers have been great. They are from all over Asia and some from the Middle East.”
The NBA guys’ activities included hosting a Special Olympics basketball clinic, a trip to Jamiyah’s Children’s Home for orphans and underprivileged children and and an NBA FIT clinic for high school students. Al also has a basketball camp scheduled this week at Oglethorpe University.
After taking a break for BWB Asia, it’s back to business for AL. He’s headed back to the gym for workouts this week. When I told him how some of my blog people seem to be very, very concerned about what guys are doing over the summer, Al laughed before laying out his plan:
“There are a couple things I will be working on, and I’ve already started a little bit. Obviously [last summer] I developed a lot more with the pick-and-pop as far as pick-and-rolling and shooting mid-range. Now I’m going to work on putting the ball on the floor more and strengthening my counter moves in post. Those are two things I will really be focused on.”
He said he hasn’t focused on his contract situation yet. Now that J.J. is locked up, Al might be next in line to get big money from the Hawks.
He’s in the fourth year of his rookie-scale contract so he’s eligible for a five-year extension to take his deal through 2015-16. The contract can start at the league maximum, which for Al is going to be something like $13 million, with maximum raises of 10.5 percent each season. If he doesn’t accept an extension, he would become a restricted free agent next summer if the Hawks extended a qualifying offer, which they obviously would.
Would Al be open to an extension?
“I’m not sure, yet,” he said. “This is a summer for me to get better and focus on next season. I don’t know what their approach is going to be on that. I know that as a team, [the focus is] to get Joe Johnson back.”
J.J. is back now. The Hawks still plan to add more pieces, including a center. Al reiterated his stance that he prefers to play power forward but isn’t making any demands about switching positions.
“I’m fine with [center] but my natural position is obviously the four,” he said.
With that said, there is one thing I’ve wondered about amid all this focus on getting a center. See if you feel me on this one.
I think the Dwight effect from the playoffs has caused a lot of people to undervalue Al as a center. I’m not saying the Hawks couldn’t use more size–even Al has agreed with that–I’m just saying you can make a case that a perimeter defender and bona fide point guard are more pressing concerns for this team. That’s especially true since Al presumably will be featured in offensive and defensive schemes that better utilize his talents and hide his lack of ideal bulk for center.
I know the Hawks hope Teague can hold down point guard while helping with the perimeter D. But if forced to choose, which might be what happens to the Hawks, would you rather acquire a center that can displace Al as a starter or a point guard you are sure can run L.D.’s revolutionary new offense so J.J. doesn’t have the ball so much? Is getting a starting center more important than finding a defensive perimeter guy who can upgrade a group that still could have Jamal and Bibby playing heavy minutes?
I’m not certain of the answers but just wanted to throw that out there. They are the kind of questions the Hawks will ponder now that J.J.’s deal is done. Lots of you have been asking about potential trades and Atlanta’s interest in other free agents, and I get that. It’s fun to imagine the possibilities. However, Atlanta’s focus has been squarely on J.J. so I’m afraid there hasn’t been much to talk about so far.
Also remember it’s still very, very early in the process, particularly for a team like the Hawks. They might have to wait until the initial craziness of the market subsides before swooping in for guys who overestimated their value. My guess is that’s going to happen relatively soon once teams that missed out on LeBron and Co. regain their fiscal sanity.
–Thanks to all my blog people for the clicks and comments during this J.J. saga. I appreciate your interest in what I have to say and admire your passion for your team. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference, and no one can ever accuse my blog people of being indifferent about their Hawks. I’m on the clock from now through the first four days of Summer League and I will do my best to keep the conversation going until I head off for some me time.