Healthy Horford rejoins Hawks revamped roster

Vivlamore reporting. Here is my story on Al Horford for the Thursday print edition of the AJC.

It turns out there are parts of the world where news doesn’t travel at the speed of Twitter.

Hawks center Al Horford (15) reacts after dunking the ball during the second half of Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs at Philips Arena in May. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

Hawks center Al Horford (15) reacts after dunking the ball during the second half of Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs at Philips Arena in May. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

During much of the Hawks’ busy offseason, Al Horford trained with the Dominican Republic National team. The center was in South America for a three-week stint – during which the Hawks traded six-time All-Star Joe Johnson and former first-round pick Marvin Williams in separate deals. Horford was without the internet and had to rely on phone calls from his father, Tito, for one shocking update after another.

In addition, Horford’s name was often mentioned in rumors as the Hawks were one team interested in trading for Dwight Howard.

“For me it was a good time to be away from everything,” Horford said.

A healthy Horford is back with his new-look team after being limited to 11 regular-season and three playoff games with a torn left pectoral muscle last season. He will be counted on heavily for his production and leadership during the transition of roster and offensive style.

The two-time All-Star will again start at center, according to coach Larry Drew. However, the coach maintains, there will be times when Zaza Pachulia will start at center and Horford will move to power forward and Josh Smith to small forward. Such a lineup adjustment would help a now-smaller unit after the losses of Johnson and Williams.

“I want to allow myself that type of flexibility again,” Drew said.

Horford said he and Smith are “drooling” over the prospects of playing the more up-tempo offense Drew has in mind with Jeff Teague being joined by Devin Harris and Lou Williams at point guard. The key to the season will be how long it takes all the new players, of which Horford is one of just five returners, to mesh as a unit.

“I know we have a lot of work to do,” Horford said. “We have so many new players. We don’t know how long it’s going to take to gel. Hopefully it’s going to take just the month of October, maybe some of November, for us to start figuring it out.”

Horford averaged 12.4 points and 7.0 rebounds in his limited play last season. The numbers were slightly down from the previous two seasons when Horford was named an Eastern Conference All-Star.

Missing their center, and his less than 100 percent return for the playoffs, many thought the organization would try one more time to chase an NBA title with the Core Four of Horford, Smith, Johnson and Williams. The Hawks didn’t get past with second round of the playoffs with the group in five straight postseason appearance. Enter Danny Ferry as the new general manager and the roster quickly – and dramatically – changed.

Still, Horford can’t help but wonder what could have been.

“That’s always going to remain the mystery,” Horford said. “We didn’t quite know if we maybe if I was healthy, if Zaza was healthy what would have happened. I think [Ferry] based his decision on our previous playoff history. I think that last year was the year for us if we would have been healthy. I think we would have definitely broke through that barrier.”

The 26-year-old has been thrust into a leadership role, along with Smith, as he enters his sixth season. The Hawks will also need him to regain his All-Star form if they are not to take a step backward.

- Chris Vivlamore

THE LATEST NEWS

* Day Two of practice gets feisty

* NBA adopts anti-flopping rule

* Drew entering his free-agent year

* Still defense first with new up-tempo offense

* Pachulia, Harris limited in first practice

* Assorted quotes from media day

* Video: My report from media day

Follow me on Twitter at ajchawks

72 comments Add your comment

Reality Check

October 3rd, 2012
8:31 pm

Reality Check

October 3rd, 2012
8:32 pm

“Urban Dictionary: granddad
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=granddad
if he was Jerry Sandusky. Hence the name for this whiskey. Granddad came over to spend the night and we drank Old …”

So saith the troll T r u t h S e r u m

lewis

October 3rd, 2012
8:37 pm

Blog people from the past few years,

We all thought ZaZa sucked, had no hands and no ability to finish.

I legitimately thought he was the worst player on the team for awhile.

Now when I think about it – ZaZa is active size – that’s hard to find in this league. Shi, he’s one of the best if not the best backup center in the league.

James.

October 3rd, 2012
8:47 pm

I have to agree Lewis. But I never thought Zaza Sucked he was brought here to be a starter. I think he has out played Al and deserves his job back. Having a good back up center is not as good as having a good starting center, which we dont.

http://blogs.ajc.com/hawks/2012/10/03/healthy-horford-rejoins-hawks-revamped-roster/?cp=2#comment-333713

October 3rd, 2012
8:50 pm

Looks like we got 2 or 3 trolls locked in a downward spiral.

this is troll city. You’d think people would have better things to do with their time. This is both funny and disgusting to see 3 or 4 grown men with no lives.

http://blogs.ajc.com/hawks/2012/10/03/healthy-horford-rejoins-hawks-revamped-roster/

October 3rd, 2012
8:53 pm

Hey trolls grandad/T.S./Sautee get laid or something you guys are pathetic.

Dan

October 3rd, 2012
10:14 pm

2013 Dwight Center , Horford Power Forward, Josh Smith SF and outside shooters for the guards …..Going to be fun to watch! Probably would be the best Defensive front court of all time.

Buddy Grizzard

October 3rd, 2012
10:22 pm

Every time I post this:

http://gothicginobili.com/?p=4113#p3

the troll goes off his meds.

O'Brien

October 3rd, 2012
10:28 pm

As good as Al Jefferson is, you would think he would have been to the playoffs more often. he has been twice in his enitre 8 year career. Once coming off the bench with Boston, and the other time starting for Utah. Oh by the way, the Jazz were swept that year.

And his playoff average? 10.5pts, 7 rebs, 49% from the field. Yeah, lets get him.

vava74

October 4th, 2012
1:52 am

OB,

From previous blog.

Was that you that suggested Horford for Dalembert and a bench player making 4 million as a filler?

Or was that the troll?

Dalembert is a creer bust who never improved any of the teams he played on.

I am not pro-Horford in the sense that I consider him strictly a C and need to see him commit to that position and want to see him become again a hustler who can shoot, instead of a shooter who can hustle but that trade would be awful.

You can get way better than that for Horford if you are on “trade mode”. Heck, that would be a Babco ck/Kasten type of trade.

vava74

October 4th, 2012
2:04 am

Buddy,

Not to bust your balls on the contents of that blog but it mentions that Horford played injured during the 2010/11 playoffs…

… and I honestly don’t remember any injury that year.

He simply played poorly because he played almost all his minutes at PF:

Against ORL, he played almost exclusively PF, a position where Bass and Anderson closed on his midrange shot, virtually bringing him back to the Earth.

Against CHI, he played many minutes at the PF, with the aggravated problem that when this happened it was with Collins on the floor, who by not being an offensive threat by any stretch of imagination lead the CHI defense to close on him all the time.

Horford did play injured in the playoffs, but it was during the 2008/09’s second round against CLE, after we won the first round against MIA.

Horford was in perfect health during the 2009/10 debacle against ORL when he simply ran out of the way every time that Howard got the ball in the paint (hence my reference a few days ago to Horford being mentally scarred by that elbow to his mouth earlier that season that was converted by the refs into a +1 instead of a flagrant 2 on Howard).

vava74

October 4th, 2012
2:31 am

And, as much as kills me to say this (due to our long standing verbal feud), I would like to nominate Astro Joe as “Off-season Blogger of the Year”. :-D

He has been spot on both from a technical and a comedic level. Hilarious stuff, virtually impossible to match and cold blooded – hence balanced – analysis of what will be the 2012/13 season (if the roster remains as it is right now).

vava74

October 4th, 2012
2:57 am

My observations of the training camp footage that was inserted in the interviews:

James Anderson will NOT make the team. Benson did a good coverage on that block (he moves his feet well), but Anderson showed that he has not regained his lift/speed.

Benson’s block did look nice, but Anderson was like a snail down the paint, so I will not interpret it yet as a sign that he is actually looking good.

DeShawn looked very very fit.

Morrow seems to know how to use the Jamal leg kick when he shoots his three pointers. Too bad that this year he might be fined for that under the new flopping rule.

Korver hit that corner 3, as you would expect him to do.

Petro is probably one of the most expensive to maintain salt statues in the world. Horford blew by him like he was made of cardboard.

Horford looked more decisive with the rock on his hands (didn’t do his 5 second jab step) but Petro as the opponent is not a good enough reference.

Big Ray

October 4th, 2012
6:02 am

Glad to know Horford’s body is healthy.

Looking forward to watching these guys run and gun, but want to see some serious team defense and rebounding.

The Magic were not about to trade Howard within the same division, much less let him get paired up with Josh Smith. Of course, some of the more astute basketball minds know which issues that pairing would have presented under a coach like LD at the very least, but we won’t get into that.

Sorry, but some folks will just have to put up with Horford for now.

I like Al Jefferson as a guy you can isolate in the post for down-low scoring. He’s also a good rebounder, but not a better one than Horford (look up the stats). In fact, Horford is slightly better in that area.

Horford’s career stats: 12.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 2.4 apg, .537 shooting percentage.

Jefferson’s career stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 1.4 apg, .501 shooting percentage.

That is with Jefferson taking a lot more shots, by the way. So why is he only 3.5 ppg better than Al?

Buddy Grizzard is right….don’t trade for him if you want him…just add him in free agency. It’s not like we won’t have the money. Is he a good addition? Possibly, but not if this team wants to run and keep running.

And to be honest, I’m not sure Ferry wants to keep it the way it’s going to be this coming season. I don’t see a long-term future of Teague/Lou/Harris. One or two of those guys will stay, the other will go. Most likely Harris at some point, he’s the oldest and Lou was signed to a long-term contract (not that this guarantees that he stays, mind you).

Jefferson does give us a bigger body, heavier anchor at center. I would not mind seeing him at Center with Horford backing him up at PF, but putting “mid-range shawty” at the SF spot requires better perimeter shooting from “shawty”, which is still not a strength for him. Even more so, it requires a legit head coach….who can take advantage of what is there. Not sure that gives us good roster balance, I’m thinking Ferry goes another direction.

Perhaps a Tyson Chandler type of player.

Al may yet be traded, but you can bet Ferry will get his worth out of any such deal, and not make the deal if the trade doesn’t make us better in the long run.

Big Ray

October 4th, 2012
6:13 am

Vava 74 ,

Excellent comments all the way around. If AJ gets the offseason blogger award, then you deserve at least an honorable mention, right? ;)

I still don’t know what to think of Benson. Maybe he is the second coming of Solomon Jones, maybe he’s better than that. Hope so, but not worried about it in the least bit.

I can’t stand Johan Petro, so I’m with you on that one. Guess we had to take ONE bad contract and keep it, eh?

I’ve actually always liked DeShawn Stevenson as a role player. Good, tough minded defender. Can hit some shots here and there and won’t hurt you on the court.

Totally agreed on Al….has to get back to what he was…rugged guy who could shoot some…not the other way around.

And you are SPOT ON about his minutes/play at PF. Without a low post threat for him to throw into or avoid coverage at his mid-range shot position, it was impossible for him to score against teams who knew how to cover it. The bad part is, part of it was coaching. Josh is clearly more of a low post threat, but he kept starting all of his “to the basket” moves further away from the basket.

Really, Josh scores at the basket well, but doesn’t have a lot of “back to the basket” game. That’s the issue. His quickness and yeah…even his handles against the right opponent allow him to get there. But he doesn’t have the strength/body weight to actually post up. Unfortunately, Al is only a little heavier/stronger, and lacks the back to the basket skill as well.

Jefferson fits in that role just fine, but not as a substitute for Al….you lose the hustle, defense, etc. Jefferson doesn’t defend so much as he gets in the way. And forget him being effective against the pick and roll or in transition….way too slow…

Big Ray

October 4th, 2012
6:17 am

Horford’s jab step is a joke. I wish he would not use it AT ALL…gives the defender time to set up in front of him. Better to get the ball and make a quick pass or simply go by the defender. Watched him do it against bigger guys like Tim Duncan and a LOT of times against Roy Hibbert.

I’m very interested in how well Anthony Morrow plays for us. I can see him getting time at both the 2 and the 3. If he’s aggressive, he’ll be a good wing for us…might even start some games, though I think he would have to fight Devin Harris off at the 2 (not sure how likely that is) and Kyle Korver at the 3 (may depend on rebounding/defense/size).

Big Ray

October 4th, 2012
6:19 am

I have no thoughts about James Anderson at all. I did find it ironic that Damion James is supposed to be in camp with us. You know, the guy Rick Sund drafted, then traded to get JC2 and a few more lap dances for Mike Gearon at his “gentlemen’s club” of choice….

vava74

October 4th, 2012
6:41 am

By the way, everyone should check the excellent coverage on peachtreehoops as well.

vava74

October 4th, 2012
6:55 am

Big Ray,

Thanks for the props but I not in the contention for Astro’s bridesmaid :-D

I posted inconsistently over the summer, but I like to think that I showed flashes here and there ;-) so I am sure that there are other guys who can get the honourable mention and the bridesmaid’s bouquet !

Maybe some day I’ll get to the all star level that Astro is exhibiting right now and get the recognition from the coaches and get selected for the team.

So, I guess that makes me a poor man’s version of Smoove as a blog participant :-D

vava74

October 4th, 2012
7:02 am

I have a good feeling about Damion Jones.

He looks like an ox and we need some bodies like that to compensate the light weights shooters.

Zaza, Ivan, Jones and Stephenson are 4 nice wide and physical guys at their respective positions.

EmirS.

October 4th, 2012
7:04 am

Get the NBA Fantasy League started!

gtt

October 4th, 2012
8:00 am

I still can’t believe Ferry was able to move that contract. Oh, thank goodness. It seems highly unlikely he would ever give a top contract to someone who’s not close to being a top player.