"Are they about to fight? Technical!? Technical! Get KG out of the game! Yes, Zaza, yes!" These were my thoughts standing, hands outstretched, not believing what I was witnessing live at Phillips during game four of the playoff series with Boston.
And then came a weird sense of dread. Zaza was about to punch one of the biggest, most intense stars in the league in the face. Melee was about to ensue. Maybe KG gets suspended but maybe not. Maybe it is Joe who was right in the middle of the fray that throws a punch in response to the escalating tension. Maybe we never get the joy that was game six. No piano music. No something to build on for 09-09. But none of that happened. Instead, that fight turned out as well as it could for the Hawks. Why? Al Horford.
Here is how Henry Abbot describe it the day after,
But then Pachulia looked ready to get a little bit too crazy, and there was Al Horford, not acting like a rookie at all, walking that fine line. He had an arm around Pachulia, and talked him back to earth. He didn't drag him away and ruin the man's dignity. He just connected with him, and by the time they had walked twenty feet together, Horford had Pachulia channeling his energy into exhorting the crowd. That's something.
Al Horford is a natural leader. The rare kind that can lead by example, words, and energy. In his first two seasons, the mechanical nature of his post game have picked on, the questionable ability to dominate even for small stretches of a game have been pointed out, but if there is anyone on the team I want pointing the ship, it is Al Horford. I hope big Al has a breakout year. I hope it because I like him and because it will help the team, but mostly because a man with that leadership ability is a break out season away from pushing a team over any hump it desires to get over.
Oh yea, and in that Boston series, the one where Al Horford was still in his first year in the league, guess who was employing the motivational tools before the Boston series?
Al Horford called down to his college video coordinator to get a copy of the Muhammad Ali documentary "When We Were Kings" to show to his teammates to get them fired up. Are you kidding me? Are a lot of rookies even thinking about how to lift up their teammates in this way? I think not.
Mmmmm, Al Horford makes me happy.