HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — What looked like a serious shoulder injury Wednesday night turned out to be a devastating injury for the Hawks and their All-Star center Al Hoford, who will miss the next “three to four months” with a torn pectoral muscle.
Horford, a two-time All-Star and a third-team All-NBA pick last season, left the Hawks’ loss to the Pacers in Indiana at the 6:08 mark of the first quarter with an apparent left shoulder injury.
The severity of the injury wasn’t clear until after the results of an MRI this afternoon revealed the tear. Per the statement the team released, Horford’s injury “typically requires surgery,” but Horford will seek a second opinion before making a decision on what route he will take.
The Hawks, 7-4, lose not only their low-post anchor and team leader, they’re also losing the services of one of the league’s elite big men for what would appear to be the remainder of this abbreviated regular season.
*** (Hawks VP of Public Relations Arthur Triche tweeted just after 5 p.m. that he had spoken with Horford, who said he planned to have surgery and try to return before the end of the regular season.) ***
For a team that’s already battling depth issues at the position, this is a blow that will be hard to overcome, especially with the competition for playoff slots in the Eastern Conference heating up this season.
“We are very disappointed for Al and our team and we wish him the best as he moves forward in the rehabilitation process,” Hawks’ Executive Vice President and General Manager Rick Sund said in a statement released by the team. “He has contributed greatly to our success since his arrival in Atlanta, and that’s evident by his selection to the NBA’s All-League team last season (third team pick).”
Horford, who averaged 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 blocks to go along with .553 FGs in 11 games this season, joins the growing list of stars that will be sidelined for a significant portion of this season with injuries. San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili (hand) and Memphis big man Zach Randolph (knee), being the biggest names.
The Hawks will have to scour the current free agent pool to see if there is a big man out there that will help provide some depth. And in the meantime, either Zaza Pachulia or Jason Collins will have to move into a starting role to replace Horford.
Prior to the start of tonight’s Hawks-Bobcats game at Philips Arena, our Matt Winkeljohn reported on the Ten Before Tip blog that Hawks coach Larry Drew said the franchise will consider all of the available options before deciding what to do next:
Drew said the Hawks have not yet spoken in earnest about the possibility of replacing Horford on the Atlanta roster. Joel Pryzbilla is among un-signed big men, Erick Dampier is out there, and Greg Ostertag is laboring in the D-League. “It’s hard to replace unless you make a trade for it,” Drew said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to [general manager] Rick Sund yet about the direction we’ll go from here.”
Whatever their choice, the Hawks will be at a severe disadvantage in the middle without Horford in uniform. Because none of the available big men come close to giving the Hawks what Horford has during his career.