Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford’s summer

Al, standing back right, with the winning All-Star squad. (www.singaporesports.sg)

Al, standing back right, with the winning All-Star squad. (www.singaporesports.sg)

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.

MC

253 comments Add your comment

bigdave

July 4th, 2010
11:04 pm

Al is a center.

work going over your right shoulder.. and on your inside pivot face up and go..

you’ll be aight Al..

bigdave

July 4th, 2010
11:12 pm

“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?”

im pulling for Teague.. but clearly if there is a ideal floor general out there available, get him.

Al can whole his own but struggles against 2 guys.. Dwight and the guy id like to bring in to offset him Shaq.

does Shaq want to add another alias? ” The Big Bird”

bigdave

July 4th, 2010
11:15 pm

*hold his own…

hehe.. V.S.O.P.

LEA

July 4th, 2010
11:17 pm

his natural position is the 4, but HE IS NOT a better PF than Josh Smith. when he realizes that he will feel a lot better about himself..

STEEL (Formerly VenomSpitter)

July 4th, 2010
11:22 pm

How do u know that LEA?

B.J.

July 4th, 2010
11:23 pm

Big AL is the man to build around and he is a better PF than Josh zhe went to the all star game over smooth

LEA

July 4th, 2010
11:25 pm

because he’s not, that’s how I know. he’s not good enough to move Smoove from his starting PF position, so he better get over it, and deal with it..

Reid Adair

July 4th, 2010
11:25 pm

I’m not the least bit worried about Al Horford. I’m sure he is doing what it takes over the summer to be ready for the season. I am very impressed with his work helping kids all over the world.

B.J.

July 4th, 2010
11:29 pm

Big Al holds his own with centers so when he moves to the 4 he going to kill he can hit that 15 foot jumper (unlike josh) get u 10 rebounds and is a leader you never question his heart or toughness no disrespect to smooth but give me Al all day long

doc

July 4th, 2010
11:41 pm

Well truth I know u don’t care what al h says but dId u see that written word on perimeter dfender and point guard. Gee do u remember hearing that somewhere else? ;-)

Dalastdon2

July 4th, 2010
11:42 pm

Hey folks what’s the summer league roster for our hawks looking like?
I can’t wait to see this offense Coach Drew is hookin’ up.

Raybud

July 4th, 2010
11:43 pm

@BJ…don’t forget that Smoove was runner up for defensive player of the year behind Howard. There were so many people who said he got robbed for a spot in the All Star Game. For those that don’t know, he is the energy and the emotion of the team, not JJ, nor Horford. No, i’m not doubting there game as players, but Smith is the second coming of the human highlight.

Melvin

July 4th, 2010
11:43 pm

“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”

I say we spilt the difference. Bring in a Big that could come off the bench and contribute 20 mins a night at Center (one of the Oneal’s) and a 3rd PG like Duhon that could spell Teague in case he’s not up to speed quick enough…

True Atlanta Fan

July 4th, 2010
11:51 pm

MC,

If there is one guy I would want the hawks to lock up for the long run it would be Horford. Im afraid this JJ deal is definitely going to make that a bit hard. How much cap room do we have left for other players after this deal?

Also from all his interviews Al seems really professional and attitude free but you think he would opt if he doesn’t get what he wants (a big man center)? I don’t expect LD’s plan to be a walk in the park right off the bat and am interested to see how people like Al would react especially if we dont fork up the money for someone that could handle Dwight.

B.J.

July 4th, 2010
11:51 pm

Raybud Dont forget how josh didnt get back across the court nemrous times in the orlando playoff seris he was to busy being upset and arguing with refs or the fact that he went from a 70% ft shooter to around 61 in that seris and how he never closed out to the three point line, i like josh i reallly do but his head isnt always in the game and Al earned that all star spot so if u ask me illl take heart and being tough over come n go talent

Rod

July 4th, 2010
11:52 pm

Horford needs to player the forward position and we need to get a true center.

Raybud

July 4th, 2010
11:53 pm

@BJ if that is the case, the all star game would be filled with bench players…lol i agree with the points you made, but i think that is something you can blame on woodson….i don’t know how larry drew will pan out, but smith needs a no nonsense coach. Once his game fully develops, he is definitely a 20/10 player

Steve

July 4th, 2010
11:58 pm

Looks like Jamal and Evans and possibly Bibby are gone next year to re-sign Horford. Jamal would be 31/32, so it’s probably best – but he is one of my favorite Hawks. Unless the Hawks get a legit center and trade Josh – maybe Josh for Al Jefferson?

Najeh Davenpoop

July 4th, 2010
11:59 pm

I agree that people undervalue Al as a center because of his struggles against Dwight Howard. I’m with bigdave in that Horford really only struggles against Howard and Shaq. (I’d probably throw Yao in there as well.) He has proven he can ball with every other center in the league. But the fact is, it’s really hard to see Horford ever succeeding against Howard and Shaq at center, whereas it’s a lot easier to see Teague step up and become the point guard who can run this team. Not to mention, simply by replacing Bibby, Teague instantly improves the perimeter defense by default.

At some point, if the Hawks want to advance in the playoffs, the Hawks are going to have to bring in a true 5 to guard these true centers of the league, so they might as well do it now. I think the perimeter defense and point guard issue will mostly resolve itself by Teague developing.

Jody

July 5th, 2010
12:03 am

Getting a center is the most important thing. Let’s not forget the effect Dwight’s mere prescense had against the Hawks or the how the size of the Cavaliers the year before proved too much for the Hawks to handle. Also, I wouldn’t be quick to draw the conclusion that Smoove is a better 4 than Al. Al knows that if he gets the opportunity to play is natural position, his numbers and his effect on the game (particularly the paint) will continue him to improve making him an all-star once again next year. As much as I love Josh, he’s a “converted 4″ not a natural 4 as he came into the league playing the 3. His athletic ability allows him to be a factor right now, but when that starts to fade, how effective of a 4 will he be?

B.J.

July 5th, 2010
12:04 am

@raybud if u going off that then al n josh should have went over joe lol….but i agreee josh can be a 20/10 guy and maybe woodson was part of the problem but the point is Al had the same coach and never had those issues and he dosnt have half the athletic skills josh does,but he has heart and he dosnt give up when/if josh gets that he’ll be unstopable but right now its got to be Al

J from the A

July 5th, 2010
12:05 am

“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?”

But the choices are actually many more than simply a choice between these two options. I think many of us are calling for more depth, particularly at the 5 spot. This means, first, we find a big man that would be capable of starting, but who would also not mind coming off the bench (with the idea that he would be coming off the bench, not displacing any starters). Then, we need to ask ourselves what last piece is more important. Another PG? Or another SF? It seems like that the opinion that is shared by yourself and Al is that we should make another PG a priority. Many of the bloggers are calling for a replacement for Williams.

Of course, there are probably much more creative ways to build this team into a champion. Any creative ideas out there that don’t include the impossible?

And then there is the wildcard: What’s up with Childress. I don’t expect him to be in a Hawks uniform, but do the Hawks still hold enough leverage to force a sign and trade or does the JJ deal really rob the Hawks from what little leverage they might have had?

Jody

July 5th, 2010
12:08 am

This whole notion of finding a back-up center who can play 15 to 20 minutes a game is rather silly to me. Are you going to accept being undersized for the other 28 minutes of the game? The contending teams don’t do that.

Nite Owl

July 5th, 2010
12:16 am

Good point, Jody, you kind of beat me to it.

Josh, Al, and JJ are your workhorses on offense. They’re always going to play big minutes because of what they bring to the table.

So if you slide Al over to the 4 full-time, you either reduce Smoove’s minutes or have him play a lot of 3. Then you’ve only got two shooters on the floor, at the 1 and the 2.

Al’s going to have to keep playing center for us to be successful, as long as Josh is around.

Also, great points about Al being able to outplay pretty much ever center other than Dwight. I still go back to Hubie Brown’s comments in the Orlando series about how the X’s and O’s were so bad. We had caught up to Boston, and we were catching up to Cleveland. Only Orlando was killing us, and I think we have the talent to hang with them, if we get coached up.

I think we had to work too hard to out-talent people, but if you add good coaching to that, we can take it to the next level.

True Atlanta Fan

July 5th, 2010
12:24 am

You think we can swindle Golden State for Monta Ellis? You think they would take Marvin/Childress and Bibby for him?

J from the A

July 5th, 2010
12:25 am

Al is an All star at … you guessed it! … the center position.

It’s not about running small or running big. It is about running the best line up for your system (or vice versa). Then having the appropriate tools in your repertoire that allow you to adjust strategies, rotations, etc. as needed. Having a genuine, defensive big in your back pocket is simply one of those tools that many think the Hawks need to have in their repertoire.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Al Hortford is 6 ft 8

July 5th, 2010
12:26 am

big Al, is only 6ft 8..he is a natural 4..at Fla he played the 4..move smooth to the 3 and get a damn center..big al will leave if we do not….Dont trade Marvin…Big mistake if we do…Woody’s iso joe/iso jamal system and refusal to play his bench held back or ruined a lot of solid players in Atl, Diaw,Williams,Salim,Morris,Law, and even Solo….Teauge was next…..We need a 6 ft 10 or taller guy he can play o and d….we will never win until we get a center….

J from the A

July 5th, 2010
12:27 am

And why is anyone talking about how good Josh Smith will be at position X when he begins to fade? We might as well start asking if Teague will be able to lead us once he begins to fade?

Barring injury, Smith’s stock should be on the rise for several more years …

Section 303

July 5th, 2010
12:31 am

I do not understand the people who have been bashing Al. I think I must be watching a different Al Horford than they are. Yes, he is not a true center, but I think he is better than 85% of the centers out there. People forget there are not many good big men around. Not many teams have a center that they couldn’t live without. I think the Hawks should focus on finding a decent backup for Al (not going to be easy). Possibly someone who could eat up some minutes and put Al at the four for parts of each game.

If the result of that is Josh at the 3, though, I want no part of it. Josh Smith at the 3 should never happen, unless a rash of injuries or foul trouble happens.

Anyways, I think the PG position is more important right now. Very doubtful a decent big man shows up on the radar. Much more likely to find a better PG.

I want to believe that Teague will be able to get the job done this year…just not sure. He has the potential. He is a good athlete and a good defender. Not sure about his ability to run the show. Will be interesting to watch him develope in Summer League and exhibition games. But, if the Hawks were smart, they might want to keep their eyes open for a decent PG to bring in here.

And, I know Bibby is here, but I see him more useful as a shooter…he can run the offense, but his D is just so bad…have to have an upgrade at PG…some insurance in case Teague does not panout, at least.

Section 303

July 5th, 2010
12:33 am

True Atlanta Fan, I hope so…I would love to see Ellis come to town. That guy gives 100% every night. Would be a great add.

J from the A

July 5th, 2010
12:39 am

Also, the position a player played in high school does not determine what his “natural” NBA position will be. Primarily a player’s skill set, and then, size, determines his “natural” NBA position.

Great interior defense? Check
Rebounding ability? Check
Explosiveness around the rim? Check
Ball handling? Not so much.
Outside shot? NOOOOOOOO! Don’t shoot even think about taking that shot!
Perimeter Defense? OK, but not nearly as consistent as interior defense.
Passing? Actually pretty decent.

Does that sound more like a PF or SF? hmmmm …

Najeh Davenpoop

July 5th, 2010
12:45 am

“This whole notion of finding a back-up center who can play 15 to 20 minutes a game is rather silly to me. Are you going to accept being undersized for the other 28 minutes of the game?”

Who said anything about 15-20 minutes per game?

Between the PF and C positions, you have 48+48 = 96 minutes to fill. Assuming Josh and Al play 35 minutes a piece, you’re left with 26 minutes at those positions that still need to be filled. If you bring in a really quality backup for Al at the 5 who can play those 26 minutes, you’re pretty much set. Depending on the matchup, the minutes can always be split differently, with this backup getting more minutes and Josh and Al playing correspondingly less.

It would be a similar situation to what the Hawks currently have in the backcourt. Between the PG and SG positions, you have 96 minutes. Bibby, Jamal, and Joe played a combined 97 minutes per game this year (the total exceeds 96 because Joe spent some time at the 3 when the Hawks went small). Bibby played 27, Crawford 31, and Joe 38. A similar time split between Horford, Smoove, and whatever “true center” the Hawks acquire to back up Al would be more or less what to expect.

HawkKingBibby

July 5th, 2010
12:45 am

SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ. This is what those guys Horfords in that picture above with said when Al asked them who could help the Hawks.

True Atlanta Fan

July 5th, 2010
12:55 am

Haha “Big Bird” Nice bigdave. Not gonna lie would love to see “O’Neal” on a Hawks jersey, and you know he would play Dwight EXTRA hard cuz Shaq hates him.

B.J.

July 5th, 2010
12:58 am

shaq woulb be kool and this sound crazy but i wish the hawks could get kendrick perkins from boston it will never happen but thats the perfect 5 for this team he gives D.howard major issues

Gainesville#1

July 5th, 2010
12:59 am

Has there been a roomer about shaq coming here? I hate to say is but I think our best bet is to bring back collins. There are no good centers out there and the few minutes he got against howard in the playoffs, he was bangin pretty good plus he already knows the system. Make him get in shape and play him.

Raybud

July 5th, 2010
1:31 am

@ all those who see this blog….if the Hawks get shaq, would he be a starter or a bench player?

N-Trigue

July 5th, 2010
1:37 am

Tyrus Thomas for center!!!

Simpdawg

July 5th, 2010
1:59 am

Shaq is not the answer folks.

Raybud

July 5th, 2010
2:26 am

@Simpdawg…..THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! AND NO I’M NOT SHOUTING AT YOU…LOL…FINALLY SOMEONE WHO SEES IT AS I DO!!

SisKing

July 5th, 2010
3:29 am

@MC: Lemme thank you brotha for all you do. You are communicative, on topic, and give an unbiased view from above of our beloved Hawks. I ain’t gonna lie, it does dismay me a bit to not have a more passionate, true-blood Hawks fan covering the team. Sekou’s love of the Hawks was obvious, and you could feel him get lifted from the ups and be twisted from the downs. But maybe your more honest view helps those of with some rose colored glasses on keep our perspective in check. All that said, you have been on point during this whole free agent frenzy and I look forward to Summer League updates and the season ahead. I simply ask that you continue keepin us in the loop. For many reading this blog, you are the closest thing they have to a “source.” Notice I said “they have”, cuz I’m connected at the top. Cheezin. But seriously, keep the info coming and don;t forget that the haters on here, and there are haters, have seen this franchise wallow in mediocrity for far too long. That will work up a dark side in any true fan. Much love MC,

Justin

July 5th, 2010
4:00 am

At least we won’t be remembered as the franchise that passed on Chris Paul now that JJ has his 6 yr./ $120 million contract.

JSS

July 5th, 2010
4:20 am

@ SisKing…
Co-sign…

People, please realize that Mr. O’Neal is 14-18 min. player now. You better have a team full of athletic cutters and not just jump shooters when playing with him. That is the only thing he still brings to the floor as a pure asset, the best out of the post passer of his generation. However, you have to screen, cut, reset the ball to the post to benefit from the skill set.

Stop talking about Brendan Haywood, we can’t afford him.

HAWKMAN

July 5th, 2010
5:20 am

PLEASE PEOPLE,TELL ME WHO? ARE THESE CENTERS, WE NEED TO GET SO BAD???? WHICH ONES ARE BETTER THAN AL HORFORD???? WHO????PEOPLE ON HERE KEEP TALKING ABOUT GETTING A CENTER???? BUT JUST TELL ME WHO CAN YOU GET?????

O'Brien

July 5th, 2010
6:05 am

For those fans asking for Haywood, this is from espn.com;

More realistic is the ability for the Mavs to re-sign center Brendan Haywood, an unrestricted free agent who met with the Miami Heat on Saturday and could command a salary between $8 million and $10 million, a rate the Mavs have not been crazy about.

The mid-level is $6 mil, so Haywood will most likely be out of our price range.

The Hawks could use another PG (which could also allow for trading Bibby at the deadline), but I think center is our biggest need on the court.

O'Brien

July 5th, 2010
6:08 am

Also, our all star Center and potential team leader has asked for help down low numerous times, so the Hawks better do what they can to get him the help he needs.

Our best moves are trades, so with Al stating his preference to play PF, I wonder if that puts Josh on the trading block?

Marcus

July 5th, 2010
6:08 am

@Section303 (12:31 am post – July 5th) – That’s why I was bummed when I saw TOR resigned PF/C Amir Johnson. Between him, Anthony Morrow (GS) and/or Ronnie Brewer (MEM) as my SG replacements (in case of his JJ didn’t resign) were my 3 fave FAs this summer.

najeh brings up a very good point. Finding a bona fide starting C to slide Al to the ‘4′ (brings all kinds of roster issues esp. on what to do w/Smoove) is a lot harder and more expensive than finding a serviceable reserve C who can spell Horford and/or give us options to move Al to the ‘4′ for short stretches of games if we decide to “go big”.

Marcus

July 5th, 2010
6:15 am

O’Brien,

One thing i worried about this true C talk is whether that type of player would counter or at least bog down our current style of play?
Some pundits said (and worried) that Shaq had that clogging/bogging down effect on CLE and didn’t give all the spacing LeBron usually had. Not to say it is 100% true …. but if we got a prototypical C, and yet recent history has shown that we are best when using the athleticism of the team to run up-and-down the court…..which style will win out and will it be to the teams overall benefit?

Bigger question: If we got another Horford-style player (similar sized, maybe undersized for a C) who could still hold his own vs. 75% of C (esp. other reserve C’s in the league), then having him as a reserve that can slide Al to the ‘4′ in certain situations might be easier to find and afford.

RoadKing

July 5th, 2010
7:10 am

Woody was a terrible defensive coach period. It took him 4 years and being down to a a team they should have handled (Bucks), before he even tried a zone! His defense did not make the best use of his players and he did not adjust to different opponents. I go to a lot of games and Al is a beast! He is the heart and spark on this team – on the court and in the locker room. He started many of runs for the Hawks. I want Al on the floor at any position. He is still improving and growing and his development is amazing. Get a good coach ( I like Drew) who coaches NBA defense and a faster defending PG and Rock and Roll.
Thank you ASG for buying the Hawks from AOL/Time Warner – boy who does not remember those days ( all you haters out there). From year one 13 wins to 53 is just a couple years !!! I love going to games now, you have put a fun and exciting team on the floor. All those haters out there saying your broke and don’t spend – you had to sign JJ and you stepped up and took care of business. All those same people are now saying bad deal. You will never make those few happy. But signing a 21pt per game scorer is never a bad deal!
I am excited for next season,
Go Hawks