Not exactly a surprise, but a good feature on a favorite topic as we head toward Game 5 tonight, the goodness that is Al Horford.
The author, Tracy Weissenberg, quotes Doc Rivers, Alvin Gentry, and teammate Joe Johnson in telling the story about just how darned loved Horford is around the league.
"I don't know if there's a guy that works harder in the League than him. You know on the offensive end, the defensive end, rebounding."
Hawks fans love Al and all his hard work, but want more. Horford is a very generous player...sometimes too generous on a team of willing takers. Statstically, he is the most efficient player, but often defers to the "stars" on the team, like Johnson.
It's a trait that Rivers calls out as well, highlighting Horford's reticence to include himself among the category of "stars"
I love him, I love watching him. I was just telling someone, of all the All-Stars, coaching the All-Star team, he was hands down-it was't even close-my favorite guy. Just the way he carries himself. He made a comment to me, ‘Coach, don't worry about playing me, I just want to play one stint. This is about the stars.' And I said, ‘You know, you're one of those guys.' Man he's so unassuming-and you knew it was for real."
This sort of humility has manifested itself in Horford's own growth process. Having learned to submit his own talent for the good of team at Florida, he never bristled when relegated to near bystander status his first few years under Mike Woodson. Such limitation of his role stunted on court work on his post game, which is still very mechanical and has nested this deferment mentality in Horford, even when open late in games.
Horford calls this a "winning approach" and playing the game the "right way" as a path to a championship.
What I believe, and other coaches are seeing too, is that the "right way" should also include a larger, well earned, role for Horford, much work this offseason on his post game, and more trips back to AS game and playoffs for the Hawks.
Even more, Horford himself needs to work on his own perspective, as the Hawks need a strong confident leader on the team, one who knows he's the Alpha Dog and his play reflects that as well. Horford has the potential and the personality to make this work, now he just needs to confidence to assume the role.
His hard work and production has made him an all-star, one that's respected in every corner of the league. This season has been another step forward for the big Gator, and here's hoping that recognition like this and the comments of his peers and rival coaches will help him to take another.