Caught up with Al Horford again, this time at Oglethorpe University during his summer camp for kids. The scene was about as loud and hectic as you might think. It’s always good for me to be reminded of why I don’t have (or want) any kids.
“The parents love it,” Horford said. “The kids do all this running around, and they are worn out when the parents come pick them up. They go right to sleep.”
The reports are that Al didn’t just lend his name to the camp like some athletes are known to do, but was hands-on with the kids. His father, Tito, helped out, too, running the kids through some drills. Bibby was there on Thursday.
Al held a camp in Michigan last summer and has two scheduled in the Dominican Republic next month, but this was his first local camp.
“This is my third year here so I figured I should do something here in Atlanta, [especially] since I live here, too,” Al said.
Before succumbing to the apparently A/C-less gym and those rambunctious rugrats, I managed to talk some business with Al. He offered insights on J.J.’s re-signing (good), Atlanta’s search for a center (important), a potential contract extension (no hurry) and the Heat loading up in Atlanta’s division (challenging).
Al said he’s happy the team re-signed Joe. He’s on board with ASG and Rick Sund’s philosophy that the Hawks still have the potential to get better so they had to keep pushing forward.
“I agree,” he said. “Everything is going well. Guys are still getting better. I think that is important to keep the team together. Like [Sund] said, we definitely don’t want to take a step back. It’s tough to build in this league.”
Atlanta is looking to add a center. I think that will happen through free agency rather than a trade. There are no indications the Hawks are actively seeking to trade any of their core guys but, like any team, they would listen to any offers that come their way.
They’d have to be very good offers, though. The Hawks still think this group can get better, and their focus is adding pieces to it, not “addition by subtraction,” Sund said. In other words, he’s not going to break up the core for a so-so trade.
Sund said the focus would getting bigs for the last three roster spots. That’s good news to Al, who thinks the Hawks definitely need to acquire a bona fide center.
“We need to get another big guy, another center, that’s able to help myself and Josh out,” he said. “We need to have someone to come in and have an impact. I think that is the position we need if we want to be any type of contender in the East.”
Al said he doesn’t necessarily mean getting a center to supplant him as the starter so he can move to power forward. Rather, it could be a scenario where the new center plays a lot of minutes and L.D. can mix and match from among the new guy, Al, Josh, Zaza and any other big guys Sund adds (a Jason Collins return is a possibility if he gets in better shape).
“I don’t have a problem splitting time [at center],” Al said. “I played a little four last year with Zaza in the game at the same time and I thought that was good. I know I am going to still play the five.”
He said he’s fine with that (it seems odd that an All-Star has to say that). He said he knows some fans and media seem to be more concerned about his position than him. But the way he sees it the Hawks have to play to their strengths, which includes a lineup with him at center.
“I think we create a lot of problems when have an athletic lineup with Josh at the four, me at the five and Marvin at the three,” Al said. “I think we create serious problems for people. I think that is one of our strengths as a team is we are so versatile.”
L.D. has talked about making better use of those advantages in the new offense and defense. Al said he hasn’t had that discussion with L.D. yet: “I am really interested to see what he is going to do as far as that.”
It’s also going to be interesting to see what the Hawks do as far as Al’s contract extension. The Hawks can offer him one that begins in 2011-12 and is worth up to five years and $82 million. The deadline for a deal is Oct. 31.
Al had said he knew the Hawks would take care of J.J. first. Now that they did, would he like to talk to them about an extension?
“We’ll see,” he said. “If the time is right. It is something that I will have to talk to my agent about. I know that the priority for the team was to re-sign Joe. We will see what happens the rest of the summer as far as the free agents if they are trying to get anybody else.”
The CBA complicates things for both Al and the Hawks. Atlanta will get the chance to retain Al’s rights as a restricted free agent next summer, but then what will free agency look like in the new labor deal? If Al signs an extension now it takes away some uncertainty but he can’t know now if he would be better off as a free agent.
“I really can’t get too caught up in that,” he said. “I really just have to go out and play. If something happens and I get an extension, great. If it doesn’t, I just have to keep playing and keep getting better.”
As for Miami, everyone seems to be predicting they will become an instant juggernaut due to the SuperFriends. They still have a lot of roster spots to fill but at this point is anyone wiling to doubt Pat Riley? Dude re-signs Wade, adds the other two stars and then carves out enough cap space to sign Mike Miller by sending away former No. 2 pick Michael Beasley for peanuts–a draft mistake that hardly anyone cares about anymore.
Assuming the Heat keeps building the roster with useful players, the Hawks could find themselves the third-best team in their division.
“This division is probably the toughest one,” Al said.