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Al Horford debut sparks yet another discussion of Horford playing center


Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Alternate Headline: Bad news for Kris Willis as the Horford is a natural power forward debate hatches a new angle.

Al Horford made his long awaited return to the court Tuesday night and the terrific Rick Kamla and Steve Smith (Hawks hero version) discussed Al's return to the court, featuring a discussion on whether Al's history of injuring his pectoral muscles stems from....playing center.

Full Disclosure: I am not a former NBA player. Therefore, I would typically yield to Smitty's awesomeness when it comes to roundball analysis and the like. However, it seems to me that Horford's pectoral injuries were independent of his playing position. Last year, he was outside the three point line when injury intervened. Recent reports of Al changing how he muscles up in the workout room seem more relevant to prevention than where he logs his minutes on the court.

Horford's playing position comes up all the time when discussing the two-time All-Star. Maybe it stems from Karl Malone playing PF his whole career and doing that cool arm behind the head thing or Tim Duncan occasionally having another seven footer on the floor with him in San Antonio made him Super Duncan, but I'm not sure it's apples to oranges considering the approach the NBA has taken with the center position the last 10-15 years.

To say Horford would be appreciably safer or more productive if there was a Rasho Nesterovic type playing beside him instead of Paul Millsap seems baseless and formulaic. Horford has been a two-time AS at the position and fills a lot of the roles in the frontcourt that are needed to fill so what's the purpose of dwelling on such semantics?

Horford himself hasn't put the issue to bed over the years, either, demurring at times when asked about it directly and flat out asking for help there in others. This season, however, Horford has been pretty clear that it's cool that he's at center -- as the position ain't what it used to be, as he told the AJC October 1st:

"The league is changing so much and we are playing at a faster pace," Horford said. "In this offense, the way I look at it, the 4 and the 5 are very interchangeable. Paul (Millsap) and I can both play inside and out. It works here. Before it might not have worked but here it works."

Horford playing center may provide some challenges but injuring his pecs is likely not one of them. The way Bud is using him has Al's buy-in at center and it certainly makes sense when there is an all-star caliber player in Paul Millsap sharing the floor with him.

No matter where you fall on this eternal, unsolvable debate, one thing Bird Watchers are unanimous on is that we're thrilled Al Horford is back on the floor and wish him eternal health so that the Hawks may resume their own attempts at excellence on the court.