Adding Al Horford is a move that changes the Boston Celtics’ landscape for the present and the future. It’s an acquisition that’s been years in the making and one that kills the narrative that the city doesn’t attract top-tier free agents.
In a vacuum, Horford’s presence doesn’t necessarily change the balance of power in the NBA, let alone the Eastern Conference. The Celtics aren’t better than the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers or even a championship contender yet. But Horford’s willingness to choose Boston is a culmination of all the hard work and forward-planning by Boston general manager Danny Ainge to create a franchise that appeals to star players on the outside looking in.
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck famously promised “fireworks” heading into the 2014 offseason, when Boston were attempting to retool and fans were dreaming of Kevin Love in green. But, to put it simply, the team wasn’t competitive enough to lure big names at that point.
Since trading the face of the franchise in Paul Pierce and future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn in 2013, Ainge has had a stockpile of draft picks and assets to trade for a star. But, as the Celtics have learned, that’s easier said than done. A star has to be available and the opportunities just haven’t been there.
Free agency, on the other hand, is all about attracting players with what you can offer and the combination of winning 48 games this past season, a young, versatile roster, as well as one of the best coaches in the game has given Boston that much-coveted cachet.
Still, it took Horford to break down that wall and send the message that the Celtics are a destination. Sometimes, all it takes is for the first person to jump in the pool for others to follow. What could follow is something that would indeed tilt the NBA axis: Kevin Durant.
As much sense as it makes for Durant to remain in Oklahoma City for one more season, Boston just increased their chances at landing him by vastly improving their roster. If you remember, it took the Celtics first trading for Ray Allen in 2007 to attract Garnett for the Big Three to come together.
But even if Durant isn’t on the way, Boston have increased their reputation to land future free agent stars, while also improving the product on the court.
After waiting and waiting for the right moment, the Celtics finally got their man and they might not be done.
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