Al Horford: Taking It Up a Notch

Friday, February 4, 2011
By Jon Newberry

With 3.3 seconds remaining and down by a point, Coach Drew looked around the huddle and he called for number 15 to make a clutch play.

We’ve seen Jamal, Joe and Smoove all hit dramatic game-winning shots in the past, but this time it was Al Horford’s turn.

LD came up with the perfect play, using Joe as a decoy, and Al executed it to perfection. He went hard to the hole with no regard for his own body, much less for Blake Griffin’s. Griffin is right up there with Dwight Howard and LeBron when it comes to impressive physical specimen’s in the NBA, so a mid-air collision was bound to cause some damage.

Horford needed a few minutes to gather himself after the foul that was ruled a flagrant-1. Coach Drew didn’t waste any worrying about who Vinny Del Negro might choose to shoot the free throws if Al was unable.

“He wasn’t going to signal to come out in that situation,” said Drew after the game. “When I say that Al is a warrior, I mean that in every sense of the word. You’re practically going to have to wheel him off the floor for him not to shoot the free throws.”

Al hit both of the free throws, and they were pure makes, drawing nothing but net.

So, to recap, Al stepped up and made a game-winning play in true “warrior” fashion. It is the type of play that will definitely make the rounds on SportsCenter, but it will also make the rounds in the locker room. Horford was already a leader, but tonight’s play with 0.6 seconds remaining will add another layer of respect that will convince his teammates to follow blindly with the ultimate trust.

For the past three and a half seasons many of us that have followed the Hawks knew that Horford did things the right way. It was obvious that he was destined to be a great leader. It was only a matter of earning his stripes over time.

Consider tonight the final test. He is a captain, he is a leader, and to quote Hawks radio man Steve Holman, he is “the heart and soul” of the Hawks.