A Daily Babble Production
The search for veteran helpers to potentially fill out the roster of the defending champion (!!!) Boston Celtics continues.
Right now, the major interests in this space remain adding a back-up small forward to bump Brian Scalabrine down on the depth chart, some scoring punch off the bench (possibly taken care of with the small forward) and potentially another big man if the right option came along. Patrick O'Bryant still makes me nervous as a rotation player.
With all that being said, we got a copule of reader e-mails this weekend about two free agents from San Antonio who just happen to play the positions described above. Since I've always been a fan of both players, it seems worth taking a few minutes today to look at the future prospects of both Michael Finley and Robert Horry.
Of course, this is the part where the fence-straddling begins, because while I'm not entirely against signing either player, I'm not entirely sold either.
Finley would be an intriguing addition because it appears he could at least provide strides toward addressing a need at the back-up three. Though Finley is more comfortable at the two, he stands 6-foot-7 and has both the size and experience to play small forward. At 34 years old, his quickness isn't what it once was, and he isn't a great one-on-one defender by any stretch of the imagination. But he has grown used to playing for solid team defenses in San Antonio, and he knows how to rotate and adjusts well on broken plays defensively.
Finley is by no means the big-time scorer he was earlier in his career, but he could make the second unit a bit more dangerous. He is a 37 percent shooter for his career from the outside, and he averaged 10 points per game a season ago for the Spurs. Finley shoots the ball well from the foul line and is the type of guy who isn't scared to take a big shot when necessary. Further, it bears noting that he played nearly 27 minutes per game in San Antonio last season, and it's hard to imagine the same being the case in Boston. Turning Finley into a 15-to-20-minute per game player could help him make the most of what athleticism and energy he does have left and might keep him fresher for the playoffs.
Despite the case in favor of Finley, it also needs to be remembered that his true shooting isn't great (51.9 percent last year and 52.6 for his career), and as was mentioned above, he is more comfortable at the two. Just how much his defensive skills have eroded remains to be seen, and he will not serve as an individual stopper for this defense. Granted, as we learned with P.J. Brown this past season, it generally doesn't hurt to add a veteran presence who plays smart basketball and will be a well-respected influence in the locker room as well. Label me more comfortable with Finley on the floor as the back-up three than with Scal there, but that doesn't necessarily mean that saving the money or shopping for a better option isn't a better idea. I could go either way on this one depending one what the other realistically available options ultimately turn out to be.
Discussing Horry on the other hand, is far more difficult for me. As I've professed in the past, I'm a huge fan of his, and I've even gone so far as to suggest that he should have a place in Springfield when all is said and done (debatable, and I'm probably on the short end of that one). As far as role players go, he has been about as clutch as it gets, and it is no coincidence that the guy has played for winners throughout his entire career. The Fresh Prince look-alike adds a big body who is comfortable in the front-court defensively albeit on the perimeter on offense, and he has earned a reputation as a good team guy who simply goes out and does his job, usually with ice in his veins.
But as we mused in this space after Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, it became apparent this season that the time is coming for even the biggest of Horry boosters to concede that the man may be on his way out. Horry played just 45 regular season games, and his shooting percentages were utterly abysmal (31.9 percent from the field, 25.7 from deep). Come playoff time, he only seemed to be more of a liability when he was on the court: His shooting appeared as ugly as the numbers do. He was missing open looks by miles, and the ball routinely looked bad coming off his hands. Defensively, Horry's quickness looked to have all but completely eroded, and too often, he seemed to be rotating to a spot just quickly enough to be on the receiving end of an opposing dunk. For those hoping for the most clutch role player of our generation to find a way to go out gracefully, it was difficult to watch.
So while the idea of Horry in green would once have been wonderfully appealing, it's hard to get quite as excited about it at the present moment. Like Finley, Horry would bring a good veteran presence and a high basketball IQ to the roster, and yes, there is always the chance that if healthy and used correctly, he could return to being Big Shot Bob right when the team needed him most. I wouldn't rule it out, and thus, I can't completely steel myself against wanting this guy in town. But he wouldn't be able to play big minutes and likely wouldn't completely assuage any remaining worries in the front-court. Given that plus what we saw from the 37-year-old last year, it's tough to make the case that the guy is completely worth the roster spot or whatever money the team will have to pay him.
So in the interest of middling, it looks like the temporary verdict here for now is one thumb semi-up and one thumb semi-down on Michael Finley and Robert Horry. Here's hoping the Celtics can find better options at their respective positions, but if they can't, neither would be the world's worst acquisition.