Florida trio shows competitiveness, maturity in Boston workouts

Originally Published: June 22, 2007
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Al Horford gets the NBA and the draft process.

So, too, do his lottery-bound Florida teammates, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer.

These three have proven, yet again, why they were the anchors for back-to-back national championships. There is no bias here. This is a fact. The Florida players aren't running scared from anyone.

Take Horford on Friday. He didn't have to come to Boston, which picks fifth. Horford is likely going No. 3 to Atlanta, where he will work out Monday, or No. 4 to Memphis, where he has already been. "I feel very confident [about going in the top four]," Horford said. "I'm really positive about it." Yet Horford has already worked out for No. 6 Milwaukee and No. 7 Minnesota.

And he not only showed up here Friday but also competed. He didn't pull a Brandan Wright or a Yi Jianlian, the two players in this draft (Jeff Green was in this mix until he decided to stay in the draft) to refuse to participate in a workout against another player.

Nope. Horford didn't shy away from competing, even if it was simply drills or the Celtics' famed three-minute run with potential second-round picks Ryvon Covile (Detroit) and France's Ali Traore.

In the past two weeks, Noah and Brewer came through Boston, which makes sense. Both are in the No. 5 range. And in each of the workouts -- Noah vs. Michigan's Courtney Sims while Wright watched, and Brewer vs. Florida State's Al Thornton -- the Florida players competed like it was the Final Four all over again.

"We feel it's important to come out here and show our faces and play and show them that we want to work hard and be the best players we can in the league," Horford said.

No one schooled the three Florida juniors on how to act. They have developed throughout their three years in Gainesville, learning how to act professionally and to approach the serious stuff in the right way.

"They all have high character, and it stands out," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Their swagger stands out. They're not cocky but confident. Some say Noah is cocky, but it's in a good way. I loved it. They were all extremely competitive.

"To me, what stands out is that they're all so skilled, all three of them. Noah is extremely skilled, a great passer and has a great IQ. All three of them are smart players, and you can see why they won. They are three of the smartest players on your team if you were to have them, and we're not even counting [Lee] Humphrey, Taurean Green or Chris Richard [the three other players that made up the top six the past two seasons in Florida's back-to-back title runs]. It's amazing what they had."

Early Friday morning, the Celtics weren't sure how much Horford would do Friday. They didn't want to push him since they were originally under the impression that he might not have been planning to compete throughout the whole workout. The plan was to leave it up to Horford. Yet he never said "no" to anything that he was asked to do.

He just kept playing.

"He worked really hard," Rivers said. "Other guys may just run around and say ... 'you're going to draft me anyway.' He didn't even blink. He was out there. That speaks volumes for Florida, for Billy [Donovan, head coach] and the whole staff. They did a nice job of building good kids.

"Beside this being a draft of talent, this might be the draft of character," Rivers said. "There are some great character guys in the draft. It's really nice. We don't have to spend an hour or two a day on background checks."

Check out this response from Horford on why he's even messing with working out for a team that he might not be drafted by Thursday night:

"I just feel like it's good to get out and work out with teams and maybe establish a relationship," Horford said after his workout Friday morning at the Celtics' practice facility. "You never know what's going to happen in the NBA and in the future. It's important for me to get out and experience and see the facilities."

Are you serious? That has to be about as mature a response as I've heard during the draft process.

"Al plays a pro-style game, and with his character and his work ethic, it's going to get better and better," said Danny Ainge, the Celtics executive director of basketball operations.

Prior to the workout, strength and conditioning coach Walter Norton Jr. was trying to goad Horford by saying that Brewer was talking trash about him. Horford didn't bite. He knew better. He knew that his teammate, his former roommate and his good friend, wouldn't do such a thing. That's not in their nature.

Nope. After watching Brewer, Noah and Horford come through here the past two-plus weeks, it's clear that the three lottery-bound Gators haven't changed one bit.

"The Florida guys are experienced, are national champions and have an air of confidence to their workouts," Ainge said. "Maybe that's their strategy, to expose that quality to as many people as they can. I'm pleased. I wish everybody would do that."

Final nuggets
• Ainge didn't want to get into specifics about all the swirling media reports about a deal with Minnesota for Kevin Garnett. But the one certainty that the Celtics did convey Friday is that Ainge and former teammate Kevin McHale, who holds a similar role with the Timberwolves, hadn't spoken on that subject in a week and that there was no imminent news on a deal this week. The fact that the story had legs every day this week was news to them since they felt no urgency about the potential deal the past few days.

As for any other trades, there is only talk now among a number of teams. But the Celtics don't have any tangible offers for No. 5. If the pick is still theirs on draft night, expect it to be Noah, Brewer or Yi (assuming Horford is gone).

• Keep an eye out for Detroit's Ryvon Covile in the draft. The 6-9 senior forward, who averaged 13.7 points and 10.6 boards, is starting to climb. The Celtics like his aggressive style and rebounding skills. That doesn't mean he'll go No. 32, but Covile could wind up in the league next season. Covile has worked out for Houston, Seattle, L.A. Lakers, Minnesota and now Boston, with Cleveland and Detroit on tap in the coming days.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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