Center of Attention: Atlanta's Al Horford Needs to Start Demanding the Ball

Bo ChurneyContributor IMarch 10, 2011

The "Boss" of the Hawks, Al Horford, needs to take command of the team's play.
The "Boss" of the Hawks, Al Horford, needs to take command of the team's play.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Who is the best player on the Hawks? If you were to ask anyone who has paid attention to the Hawks this year, they would undoubtedly say Al Horford.

So far this year, Horford has been the heart of the team. He is the one who tries to lead the team and tries to fire up the crowd. He is the player who performs consistently and always plays competitive.

So why does the fourth-year center and two-time All-Star only get 12 shots a game when he is shooting over 56 percent?

For those of you who don't often watch Hawks games, let me detail what usually happens for you:

Early in the game, the Hawks usually get good ball movement and get open looks at the basket. Usually, everyone is able to get involved and make and impact on the game. Then, it happens...

"It" is what most people familiar with Atlanta basketball like to call "Iso-Joe."

It's isolation after isolation where Joe Johnson handles the ball for 20 seconds, then either takes a contested jumper or passes it to a teammate, leaving them with three seconds to make a play. The only other variant of this is when Jamal Crawford tries his best imitations at it.

A team with this kind of talent should not be relying on isolations when they have the lead.

At the end of the game, you will often see that Al Horford has the least amount of shot-attempts of the Hawks' main four shooters. (Johnson, Crawford, and Josh Smith being the other three)

This cannot keep happening.

If Atlanta wants to have any hopes for anything in the playoffs, they have to start giving Horford the ball more. There is no reason No. 15—who can shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor—should only be getting 12 shots a game.

And more importantly, he shouldn't have to be begging for the ball to get those shots.

The way to execute this is simple: stop with the isolations. Isolation plays should be run infrequently and to the point where it doesn't completely stagnate the offense. If Atlanta stops the iso-play and just continues to move the ball around, then Horford will get the touches that he needs.

If this doesn't happen, then the team is doomed for an early playoff exit.

Teams need to play with their best player as the focus of everything. It's about time the Hawks started to do the same.