Welcome to Boston.com’s Sports Q, our daily conversation, initiated by you and moderated by Chad Finn, about a compelling topic in Boston sports. Here’s how it works: You submit questions to Chad through Twitter, Facebook, email, his Friday chat, and any other outlet you prefer. He’ll pick one each day (except for Saturday) to answer, then we’ll take the discussion to the comments. Chad will stop by several times per day to navigate. But you drive the conversation.
Al Horford has kind of turned into the David Price of the Celtics. Really good player, paid a ton of money, isn’t as productive as his salary indicates he should be, and some fans hold it against him. Do you think the Celtics have any second thoughts about the signing? – Russ F.
None. Not one. If anything, they probably wish they could clone him right now.
That Price comparison is an interesting one, but their situations differ in a couple of different ways. Horford has shown no signs of being affected by sports radio or social media or any of the criticism. Price clearly lets it get to him sometimes.
Price also underperformed compared to expectations, at least to some degree. He was a workhorse, struck out a ton of batters, and won 17 games — but that 3.99 ERA was a career-worst, and again he failed to deliver in the playoffs.
I think Horford has been exactly what the Celtics expected. A terrific, smart defender who serves as an anchor, one of the best passing big men in the league (he’s the best passer on the roster), a player who isn’t demanding of the ball but still averages around 15 points per game, and someone who has mastered all the small things that you have to be looking for to notice, such as the brick-wall screens he sets to free up Isaiah Thomas so often. He’s also a classic 4-man who is playing center because the Celtics’ other bigs are bunch of stiffs.
If you were familiar with the player Horford has been the past few years, his performance this season was not a surprise. This is who he is, it’s really valuable … and it’s imperfect. His rebounding has declined, and they could use about four more per game from him. He should be more aggressive in looking for his own opportunities — their offense would operate better if he touched the ball on every possession and took every open shot he had. He’s missing in action too often, though much of that falls on the coaches’ and guards’ failure to involve him enough.
There are reasons to be frustrated with him in this series. He had just 7 points in Game 2, though he did grab 11 rebounds. But there’s a vocal group of Celtics fans who have developed a knack for ignoring what he does well or when plays well — such as that 19-8-7 line in Game 1 — and instead are waiting to howl about his contract when he has an underwhelming stat line.
We’re not even one year into this deal, and already that line of complaining is getting very old. He’s not a statistical superstar, but he’s a hell of a player overall, and I seriously doubt Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge have shared a split-second’s worth of regret about his signing.
Now if you want to complain about immobile Amir Johnson and his $12 million contract, I’ll hear you out on that. But if you’re going to suggest they shouldn’t have signed Horford for the going rate, I’ll be waiting to dunk on you in the comments.