ORLANDO – Al Horford is back putting up numbers that made the Hawks center a two-time All-Star.
Horford has six straight double-double games in points and rebounds heading into Wednesday’s division game against the Magic. He has 11 double-doubles in the Hawks’ first 18 games this season. Among centers, only the Lakers’ Dwight Howard has more (12) in the NBA this season.
Horford missed most of last season after tearing his left pectoral muscle 11 games into the year. The injury cost him a chance for a third straight All-Star game. Although he returned for the playoffs, Horford was not 100 percent healthy. He spent the offseason getting back to form.
“I look at (the recent statistics),” Horford said. “I’m happy. I put in a lot of work in the offseason. This is just the fun part of it. In the offseason, nobody sees when you are in the gym, working late, getting in early and lifting to get back to where you need to be. It’s rewarding to see all that work is paying off but it’s early in the year and I know I can get better. And I’m going to keep working toward it.”
Over the past six games, Horford is averaging 18.3 points (48 for 88, 54.5 percent) and 12.2 rebounds. During that stretch he is also averaging 3.3 assists and 1.0 blocks.
For the season, Horford is averaging 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds. Both statistics are career-highs, better than his two All-Star seasons of 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Horford has scored in double-figures in each game this season. He was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Nov. 19-25. The next game started his current double-double streak.
Horford is fifth among centers in scoring and seventh in rebounds in the NBA. This season, the NBA changed the All-Star selection process and will choose from a list of front-court players (centers and forwards combined). Among those combined positions, Horford is 18th in scoring and seventh in rebounds in the league and eighth in scoring and third in rebounds in the Eastern Conference.
In 334 career games, Horford has averaged 13.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks with a .537 field-goal percentage. According to Elias Sports Bureau, those numbers place Horford alongside only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Artis Gilmore and Howard and Artis Gilmore with at least those averages.
“He has really done a phenomenal job for us the last couple of weeks and his numbers show it,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “I think he is really starting to get completely healthy from the shoulder that kept him out last year. He has been scoring the basketball and rebounding. He’s been really active, active with energy, and that’s helped him.”
Point guard Jeff Teague has been at the center of Horford’s recent success, according to the center. They were two of the five holdovers from last season’s Hawks team but played little together as Teague became a full-time starter due to Horford’s injury.
“I think that at the beginning it took a couple of games to get familiar with this new situation, not only for the new guys but for us (holdovers) as well. I just think that Jeff is starting to figure things out as a point guard – how to find people, when to shoot it himself. He is finding me a lot more now whereas at the beginning of the year we were having a hard time connecting.
“We are playing well off each other. Josh (Smith) and I always play well off each other but my relationship with Jeff has gotten better on the court.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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