Al Horford Silences Early Comeback Talk, Calls Injury 'More Severe' Than 2011

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 13, 2014

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 26: Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks looks on in the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on December 26, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Remember when the Atlanta Hawks were sitting pretty at 16-13, lending credence to the belief that they could actually earn the No. 3 seed in the ridiculously weak Eastern Conference? 

If you can't, I don't blame you. 

Losing Al Horford to a torn pectoral muscle—which occurred on the play you can see below—changed things rather drastically for a Hawks team that has dealt with that pesky little injury imp all year.

Since the team's best player went down during the first overtime period of a Dec. 26 double-OT victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta has gone only 11-22. 

Now instead of comfortably holding down the fort at No. 3, and looking forward to home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason, the Hawks are left gasping for air.

And none will be coming from Horford (per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore and's Robby Kalland): 

As a slight tangent, Horford's shoulder isn't the only thing that's injured. His memory must be as well, seeing as Kwame Brown was knocked out of the Golden State Warriors lineup with a torn pectoral in January, 2012. 

Nonetheless, 2-of-4 is still remarkable.

Horford's statement came during an interview with NBA TV, one that aired live before the Hawks were scheduled to take on the Milwaukee Bucks. Just as he's done for months, Horford delivered the quote while wearing a suit and tie. 

Unfortunately, that's exactly what he'll be wearing throughout the rest of the season as Atlanta tries to stave off the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons to remain in the non-lottery portion of the Eastern Conference. 

There was an outside chance that Horford could return for the stretch run or provide the Hawks with a significant boost during the playoffs, but that possibility has gone by the wayside. Not only is the injury more severe than the one he suffered in 2011, but it also affects his shooting arm: 

On the bright side, it's forcing him to develop a new aspect of his game: 

And that's not the only positive. 

While Horford won't be making any on-court contributions throughout the remaining portion of the 2013-14 season, he will continue working to keep the spirits up in Philips Arena. 

"Horford’s presence also brings a sense of positivity and professionalism. This has been important for the other players to see while shorthanded and facing adversity," Jessica Camerato wrote for Basketball Insiders at the end of February. She explained that while it was tough for him to be around the team in the immediate aftermath of the injury, his presence is increasing. 

Shoulder injury or no shoulder injury (and there still is one), Horford is always going to be a leading force for this Hawks squad.