Al Horford may be near return — and Hawks need him

If Al Horford could provide just a little defense like this, it would go a long way for the Hawks. (AP photo)

If Al Horford could provide just a little defense like this in playoffs, it would go a long way. (AP)

There were good signs, things you want to see before the playoffs: Marvin Williams channeling, well, somebody other than Marvin Williams (29 points, including three straight possessions in which he hit two three-pointers and then drove to the hoop for an and-one); Jeff Teague scoring and then smack-talking with Carmelo Anthony (impressive); the 6-1 Jannero Pargo going nose-to-belly button with the 6-11 Amar’e Stoudemire (funny).

Then there were things Hawks coach Larry Drew would have preferred not seeing from an NBA team in a late April game: An extended halftime slumber that enabled the New York Knicks to go on a 12-1 run to open the second half; defensive breakdowns (like forgetting to cover Carmelo Anthony in transition); 19 turnovers (for the second straight game).

So let’s reaffirm with this when it comes to the Hawks: Nobody really knows what to expect when they open the playoffs next weekend against the Boston Celtics. Their direction is as clearly defined as a ping-pong ball in wind tunnel.

But we can reasonably assume this: If the Hawks can get center Al Horford back for even a few minutes a game, it would be of some help. That’s starting to look like a strong possibility.

When asked Sunday where he would rate his chance of playing in the playoffs on a scale of 1 to 10, Horford responded, “I would say a 7. I really want to play. I don’t know if it’s the smartest thing for me physically but I want to be out there and I feel like it’s realistic.”

He also hopes to play in the regular season finale against Dallas on Thursday night.

Should we expect much? No. But anything is something. Anything means fewer minutes that Josh Smith is asked to drop into the middle or the smallish Ivan Johnson has to play more elbow ball.

Anything ensures that Erick Dampier never makes it out street clothes.

“Just his presence alone would give this team a big lift,” coach Larry Drew said. “His presence on the floor would be humongous. Him on the bench in a uniform would be humongous.”

The Hawks lost to the Knicks 113-112 Sunday at Philips Arena. There were a number of reasons why, but here’s a significant one: New York got 22 points and 12 rebounds from Stoudemire, at least in part because the Hawks again were forced to go with their lineup of Lilliputians (no Horford, no Zaza Pachulia, who’s also injured). The Hawks have held together remarkably well, which says something about the resolve of the players, the roster’s improved depth and Drew. But bigger is still better.

Watching hasn’t been easy on Horford. He suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the 11th game of the season. He was projected to be out three-to-four-months. We’re right at 3½ months.

“This is a  big week for me,” he said.

The fact that the injury came in a post-lockout condensed season means he has little time to practice and scrimmage with teammates because there are so few days off (and consequently, few full practices). Horford even considered “going to Georgia Tech or somewhere” this week to find a pickup game to get some work in. Instead, he has had to resort to having an assistant coach like Tyrone Hill pound against him in practice.

“I told him, ‘You’ve got to hit me,’” he said. “That [contact] is something I need to feel good about.”

He played in a three-on-three with teammates the other day, but said, “I got a little frustrated. I was struggling. I just wasn’t feeling right. I’m supposed to be fully healed but I’m not all there yet. But I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to come back.”

Smith said when Horford left, “It changed matchups and what we could do down the stretch of games.” His minutes in a return would be limited. But limited would be better than nothing — and it also could be the difference in winning a playoff series.

By Jeff Schultz

79 comments Add your comment

CP

April 22nd, 2012
5:48 pm

Welcome back Al. Go Hawks!!

Steve

April 22nd, 2012
5:52 pm

Pretty sad watching the game today and hearing half of the arena pull for NY. Seems like that for most home games as far as a lot of the crowd pulling for the other team. I know Atlanta is a transplant city but come on!

some sense

April 22nd, 2012
6:21 pm

Hawks haven’t got anyone, w/ or w/out Pachulia or Horford, who can guard Stoudamire and Anthony.

Sage of Bluesland

April 22nd, 2012
6:42 pm

Al Horford? Please. The most overrated “superstar” in this town since Keith “ankle-grab eight yards downfield” Brooking.

The Hawks are hopeless–and have been since the mid 1980s. It all starts at the top, folks.

Thus, my boycott continues. I will never subsidize incompetence–and will continue to encourage others to follow suit. This ownership group doesn’t deserve your hard-earned money.

Wake up and stop being such sheep, folks…

Hawks Fan

April 22nd, 2012
6:44 pm

Horford returning is just going to mess with chemistry and lineups.

Hugh Jass

April 22nd, 2012
6:45 pm

Some sense. Have you ever heard of a team game? If you can’t guard a guy with one person then strategize and win as a team. i.e., you have no sense.

kuhndog

April 22nd, 2012
6:46 pm

I agree Steve it has to be frustrating to come to your gym and have more people rooting for the other team, that’s bull$hit.I am from another town and like other teams but when I go to the highlight factory I go for the hawks.By the way Marvin got fouled on the last play and if that had been kobe labron wade or durant they would have been shooting throws.If you don’t like the hawks go post some where else and don’t go to the games to spite folks that like them.I think if Horford he isn’t ready needs to rest, he is part of the future,the Hawks have been playing w/o him most of the season

DawgNole

April 22nd, 2012
7:05 pm

Sage of Bluesland
April 22nd, 2012
6:42 pm

The Hawks are hopeless–and have been since the mid 1980s. It all starts at the top, folks.
___________________________

In the interest of accuracy, you better make that “since the late 60s.”

Ken Stallings

April 22nd, 2012
7:05 pm

Jeff,

I realize you had nothing to do with the photo selection but I feel compelled to make this statement. I firmly believe it is past time to stop gloryfying the career and actions of Spike Lee such as was done in today’s online sports page of the AJC. Lee’s reckless and irresponsible behavior endangered the lives of two completely innocent elderly people, and even if the address he publicly released had been for the man he thought it was for, the action was calculated to encourage a vigilante action outside the jurisprudence of the United States legal system!

The man should be shunned!

lumiere

April 22nd, 2012
7:08 pm

Robbo

April 22nd, 2012
7:08 pm

You got out-rebounded by the Tyson-less Knicks but you’re trashing the one guy on the roster that actually cares about hitting the glass fighting to come back? THAT is why everyone laughs at Atlanta sports fans.

Robbo

April 22nd, 2012
7:11 pm

“i am from another town and root for other teams” – kuhndog

There’s your answer. Millions of other people moved here just like you. The natives already know the drill with this franchise. If more people quit rooting for their own teams, then yeah, but they don’t so no point discussing it from this point of view.

GRITTY52

April 22nd, 2012
7:15 pm

Who in God’s green earth made the decision to put Spikey on the sports page.
That weasel don’t deserve this after what he did to those Florida people.
He should keep his racist rectum in New York with the other special people.

merbertmoover

April 22nd, 2012
7:17 pm

fun game to watch all around today despite the loss.

i’ll tell you what i hate. watching the celtics disrespecting us last friday. that makes merbert mad. i mean, i was waiting all darn week for the friday game, gonna be on espn, and then when we have a national audience for an important playoff seeding game, the celts don’t even play their starters.

so it’s like we’re screwed either way. we either lose to their bench which would be hugely embarrassing, survive against their bench which is still like a loss, or we have to blow them out and then it would be a boring game.

the hawks just can’t win. constantly disrespected. the celts are like “we don’t care if we gotta come here for game 7. we’ll have half the crowd rooting for us.”

screw you celtics. merbert can’t wait for this series

merbertmoover

April 22nd, 2012
7:18 pm

hawks fan for life

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 22nd, 2012
7:26 pm

Someone please notify Tyler (Don’t call me Gaylord ) Perry that Spike sat in his chair.

DawgNole

April 22nd, 2012
7:31 pm

Ken Stallings
April 22nd, 2012
7:05 pm

Jeff,

I realize you had nothing to do with the photo selection but I feel compelled to make this statement. I firmly believe it is past time to stop gloryfying the career and actions of Spike Lee such as was done in today’s online sports page of the AJC. Lee’s reckless and irresponsible behavior endangered the lives of two completely innocent elderly people, and even if the address he publicly released had been for the man he thought it was for, the action was calculated to encourage a vigilante action outside the jurisprudence of the United States legal system!

The man should be shunned!
_____________________

Are you sitting down, Ken? You might better, because I actually AGREE with you on this one.

iTiSi

April 22nd, 2012
7:32 pm

Ken Stallings and Gritty52 made some outstanding points, and I for one appreciate them. I was about to do so myself when I saw theirs. The AJC has lowered itself to the level of such as Spike Lee and others like Al Sharpton by doing such. Spike Lee has now become the leader of the “Scum of the Month Club” and does not deserve his photo even on the back page. I have a question. If Ted Nugent had been at the game, would his picture have been posted also. You know not, and rightfull so. The AJC credibility is hanging by one slim thread.

beone

April 22nd, 2012
7:35 pm

Agree with Ken S.

Riddle me this

April 22nd, 2012
7:41 pm

/reads Ken Stalling’s post
//begins slow clap

Robbo

April 22nd, 2012
7:47 pm

“…The hawks just can’t win. constantly disrespected. .”

Soft.

Gray Mule

April 22nd, 2012
7:49 pm

Want to know why the Hawks lost? They left the game on the charity stripe.
15-23 = 62.5%
We left 8 points on the free throws.
JJ; 0-3
JT; 4-6
MW; 5-7
IJ; – 1-2

Yep. that’s 8 points and the ball game.

Jeff Schultz

April 22nd, 2012
8:06 pm

Ken — That was an awful mistake by Spike Lee but he has made amends to the couple and I believe they have forgiven him. A link: http://articles.cnn.com/2012-03-29/justice/justice_florida-teen-spike-lee_1_spike-lee-apology-skittles-candy?_s=PM:JUSTICE

LHarding Dawg

April 22nd, 2012
8:10 pm

Who the heck cares about Spike “race bater” Lee. Only the AJC!!!

jj

April 22nd, 2012
8:13 pm

As always when JJ and Josh playselfish bb,this is what we can expect.JJ got to prove he is worth the mony,and Josh got to prove he is an all-star.I wish they would understand that The Hawks are pretty good and they are the one’s that cause The Hawks to be laughed at around baskeball!I wish they studied the second unit sometime and see TEAM Ball in action!GO HAWKS

just a thought...

April 22nd, 2012
8:34 pm

…but it seems that ATL fans waitfor things to happen and NYC fans make things happen.

Obxdawg

April 22nd, 2012
9:11 pm

I strongly agree with Ken Stallings. How in the world can the AJC validate Spike Lee by promoting him as a NYK fan as opposed to the bigger story? He’s a race bater in the first order. He should be investigated by the justice department for his involvement in the bounty for Zimmerman. It doesn’t matter that he “apologized”. Zimmerman apologized to the Martin family too and there will be a trial to determine his innocence or guilt just as there should be for Lee as well. Schultz, don’t protect the AJC staff responsible for the picture!

frank

April 22nd, 2012
9:12 pm

Even if Al returns the Hawks aren’t gonna contend for the championship. I can’t wait to see what the Knicks can do in the playoffs they actually got a good chance of contending.

79

April 22nd, 2012
9:14 pm

JS
Spike can’t put the genie back in the bottle. He apologized. Good for him. Zimmerman is going to be dead. Spike’s idiotic comments about this horrible event contributed to the current racial madness. I have no idea what happened but Spike Lee should have kept his mouth shut…..and apologizing doesn’t make it all ok….and Jeff, you know it….

hawks fan in los angeles

April 22nd, 2012
9:20 pm

Sage in Bluesland. You don’t have to like the Hawks, that’s fine. Just want to make sure it’s clear that commenting on a Hawks blog stating you are boycotting the team is not boycotting the team.
Boycott:
to combine in abstaining from, or preventing dealings with, as a means of intimidation or coercion: to boycott a store.

to abstain from buying or using: to boycott foreign products.

rollow lawson

April 22nd, 2012
9:44 pm

Memo to Josh and Larry Drew:
FEED THE HOT HAND

Josh’s main job today should have been rebounding, defending, running the floor, and guarding the basket. We did not need him to do much scoring today. Teague, Joe, and Marvin were doing a fine job of that. Josh needs to realize that some nights he is not the go to guy on offense. He needs to recognize this, defer to others at times (the hot hand), and play smarter. Learn to find your point guard after a rebound and fill the lane. How many errant outlet passes did he throw today? If Josh plays dumb and Drew coaches dumb against the Celtics in the playoffs, we lose, plain and simple. Larry Drew is scared of Josh I do believe. Drew also needs to run more plays for Joe when he is hot. He could have easily had 40 against the Celtics Friday night. Recognize when you main man is hot and make a better effort to get him the ball in his sweet spot.

Amen Chorous

April 22nd, 2012
9:51 pm

Ken said more in a graph than Schultz said in his column. I don’t want to be looking at Spike on TV and especially not on AJC sports pages. Jeff, by your defense of the race-baiter, I’m thinking maybe you DID pick out the photo.

rollow lawson

April 22nd, 2012
10:02 pm

Forget Spike Lee, really. The question is, why was ESPN giving him so much air-time? I bet there were plenty of singers, rappers, athletes, and real celebrities at Phillips Arena. ESPN and TNT do a piss poor job at panning the audience and pointing out these people when they do a Hawks game. But when they go to L.A., they make sure to point out Jack Nicholson and every other dried up a$$ Hollywood star!!

rollow lawson

April 22nd, 2012
10:07 pm

While I’m venting, the NBA does a piss poor job at marketing the league as a whole. If you listen to the pre-game shows, you would think that there are only two teams in the eastern conference, Miami and Chicago. They have already put them in the ECF. No need to play round 1 and 2. I hope neither make it too the ECF. David Stern would drop a load in his pants if it happened.

Riddle me this

April 22nd, 2012
10:40 pm

Shultz, regardless of whether Lee apologized or not, the fact remains that he wanted to spread the address of a man who had angered many people with negative repercussions very likely for the man. What did he think was going to happen if he spread the address to the masses? They would send him cookies and milk? Absolutely not. He intended to cause harm to Mr. Zimmerman, thereby taking the law into his own hands over a man who has yet to be proven guilty in court. There is no excuse for what Lee did, and bringing a completely random couple into the affair is just another example of the reach his act of stupidity has had.

Ken Stallings

April 22nd, 2012
10:57 pm

Jeff,

I appreciate and respect your point of view, but I must respectfully disagree that Lee’s actions afterward absolve him. If the address he posted had been accurate, he would not have apologized and it seems clear his intent was clear.

All citizens have a moral duty to place faith in the legal justice system else we find ourselves encouraging vigilantism. That two completely innocent people, who were elderly and thus less likely to defend themselves successfully against a crazed group of vigilantes, only serves to illustrate the full depth of Lee’s irresponsibility. But, it was the action’s pre-meditated disregard for basic respect for our justice system that remains singular.

I’m not calling for Lee to be incarcerated. If he wants to use his money to purchase tickets to a sporting event then so be it, and he does not deserve to be threatened in return. But, the media continues to glorify the man as though the action carries no lasting damage to society. The entire jury pool of that area has likely been poisoned such that carrying out a trial in accordance with our Constitution is unlikely. Lee’s actions helped fuel that situation.

The photo should be removed as frankly it contributes nothing to the objective details of the game and likewise the mention in the articles should also be removed for the same reasons.

rob

April 22nd, 2012
11:04 pm

The hawks still suck because they are a rutterless ship. They do not take care of the ball at all. They turn it over and NO ONE, especially their coach says a word. If they would just stop trying to force unecessary passes that are comepletely not needed. Time and time again. Josh is ussually involved 20 feet from the basket. He needs to work on finishing his drives 2 feet from the basket and leave the guard play to the GUARDS. When is he ever going to learn this. Too often, we take three point shots without a soul under the basket to rebound. And our rutterless coaching staff does nothing to change this game and game again. Today at crunchtime, instead of driving to th hoop and drawing fouls, we settle for 20-25 footers with no one rebounding. Of course it is hard to rebound when your best rebounder (Josh) is the one jacking up fallaway airballs at crunchtime. Until this team gets some leadership at the top (new coaching staff) to control the inmates, nothing will change. I wasted two hours of my sunday afternoon watching nothing more than a bad pickup game. It made me sick to watch these guys go over and bunp chests with the Knicks after the game as if they are all buddies. You will not see Kevin Garnett come shake the Hawks hands after a loss. Why? Because he does not want to be friends with the enemies, he wants to beat them and beat them bad, not be their friends. It all starts at the top and we are know better off than we were last year, and the year before, just more out of control turnovers and too many long jump shots at crunchtime. This team is going nowhere!

rollow lawson

April 22nd, 2012
11:06 pm

Forget Spike Lee you idiots! Not matter how hard you try to villify him and his actions (irresponsible and as stupid as they were), Zimmerman should have kept his a$$ in his car as instructed by the 911 operator. If he would have done as instructed, Martin would be alive and Zimmerman wouldn’t be facing a murder charge. He escalated the situation, ended up biting off more than he could chew, and pulled the gun like the coward he is. End of story. Stop trying to shift the blame and focus to the irrelevant Spike Lee.

rollow lawson

April 22nd, 2012
11:07 pm

Sorry, “Know matter”

indyhawk12

April 22nd, 2012
11:28 pm

the past two games they havent taken care of the ball and today they didnt make free throws…the playoffs are all about free throws and match ups…how many times does someone run into a brick wall before they figure out in this definition of “insanity” that there will not be different results…id love to atleast make it to the eastern finals but it seems like were stuck like the movie ground hog day…Josh shoots us out of games..Larry lets the players dictate the the game..JJ doesnt have the killer instinct to close out a game let alone a playoff series..so why do i keep expecting different results?? cuz im a fan of atlanta pro sports and stuck in purgatory…who is gonna lead us out of this???

cdog

April 22nd, 2012
11:32 pm

mr shultz you are right.the hawks are terrible on fundamentals on both ends especially defense. they don’t play hard, they don’t know how to position themselves to guard their man. marvin williams and josh smith don’t show up on defense. smith should be a force but he’s not trying.kirk hinrich is a waste.playing in phillips arena is like playing in an empty gym.homecourt won’t matter because the hawks have the most negative so- called fans in the league.they cheer for the opposing teams morer than they do for the hawks, they are pitiful and terrible. unless these things are corrected, the playoffs will be done before they start for the hawks horford or no horford

Jail for spike

April 23rd, 2012
12:53 am

So sad to see spike lee in stands today when he should be in JAIL for tweeting out the people’s address in Florida what s piece of dogsh__

Columbus

April 23rd, 2012
1:00 am

Take it slow Al. We ALL want you back but we dont want you hurt if we make it to the 2nd round. You do not have to play game 1 of the series. You are out of shape but also rested while so many players are worn down from a brutal schedule. You get out there when you are healthy not when you just want to be out there and that may be a week after the playoffs start. See how the boys do game 1 if you are not feeling healed . If they pull it out, then sit again if you are still not feeling healthy. We need you for round 2 as much as round 1 you know? So take it easy and just dont hurt yourself.

Come back but come back SMART brother…

JM

April 23rd, 2012
4:01 am

Ronald appears to be angry that people actually look at the facts, disagree with him, and resorts to insults when he is likely the one intertwined with ignorance. Go away, race baiter.

JSS

April 23rd, 2012
7:35 am

Ha ha, another hijacked AJC blog! There’s nothing in the world like an AJC blog, they always have a way to get in to something that have absolutely no idea in the world what they are talking about!

There’s a boy (he wasn’t a man) dead in a grave yard. There’s a man who no matter how many of you want to spin it made 5 of the biggest mistakes a person over 18 can make. He “did not listen to a suggestion from a paid public servant!” He took the law into in his own hands. He carried a loaded weapon. He pulled a loaded a gun. And most importantly, he pulled the trigger on said loaded gun.

George Zimmerman is a grown a** man. He made his bed, let him deal with the grown man’s ramifications for his actions. That is why we have courts. He got his “constitutional right” to a fair bailment. That is more than that boy got on the day he died.

You folks need to stick to Al Horford… The town (Sanford) that ran the Brooklyn Dodgers out of town (go look up how they ended up in Vero Beach) has always had this undercurrent of problems. My uncle has lived there for thirty-five years. I remember when the subdivision where that boy died were groves of orange trees. In a State where people are charged with murder for having a child killed by a car while crossing a street by a drunken driver who had no business on a road, we have no right to talk!

rollo lawson

April 23rd, 2012
8:30 am

My sentiments exactly JSS!!! I personally will not sit here and defend Spike Lee. With that being said, I can’t understand why these idiots on this blog are defending Zimmerman.

Orin

April 23rd, 2012
8:51 am

The Hawks it appears have the lowest basketball IQ of any playoff team in the NBA. They win mostly by their talent, which in this league can get you by most of the time. Coach Drew is a just a man with a clipboard. How do you defend calling a play for JJ where he dribbles around for too long then takes a long turn around 3? Seriously? Cmon Man! And the turnovers are killing them. You can now consistently count on JSmooth to make at least 3 or 4 ill advised passes that end up in the other teams hands. I want to root for these guys but watching the Knicks game just tells you that the Hawks are not going anywhere. Probably another second round exit.

Jeff Schultz

April 23rd, 2012
9:18 am

I never thought I’d have to close a Hawks blog because of race-baiting comments related to Spike Lee. But I’m almost there. Move on people. Discuss hoops or go elsewhere. Thanks.

Jeff Schultz

April 23rd, 2012
9:18 am

JSS — Thanks.

Remarkable

April 23rd, 2012
9:23 am

Jeff,
You may think that Spike Lee made “amends,” but putting anyone’s address out there and inviting people to take revenge is irresponsible. What if someone did the same thing to his parents?