Larry Drew ruled out Al Horford returning before the end of the regular season: "What I've been told he's definitely out for the regular season and there is a possibility [of return] for the playoffs." Al has said he should know more about his timetable when he returns to see his doctor next week.
This makes a big difference in terms of the Hawks' playoff chances whether or not they even have a 75 percent available Horford in the rotation. Zaza Pachulia has been great since Al has been out, as has Josh Smith in terms of picking up the rebounding and scoring slack in Horford's absence, but the Hawks aren't among the top teams in the East anymore and are looking like the team we're used to seeing: A solid team who can be problems for teams like Orlando in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but lack the depth to move beyond that.
Still, the Hawks are 16-12 if you include the game where Horford got hurt, which I do, since Al's now apparent season-ending injury. That's good but it's a far cry from the 7-3 team they were before the injury and there are no 20-point beatdowns of good teams that have occurred since. I said after the injury that they would have to fight to keep their place in the playoff race, and they have, to their credit.
The Hawks are in survival mode, just scrapping and making it to the playoffs. Looks like they'll definitely be doing it that way all the way though the regular season and may have to do the game in the postseason.
Exit Question: Where do you put the Hawks chances of winning a playoff series without Horford? Better than, about the same, worse, or considerably worse?