With Al Horford last season, the Hawks were 16-13, an above .500 team that at the time was the third best team in the weak Eastern Conference. After he was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle they went 22-31.
The Hawks need Horford — in those 29 games he averaged 18.6 points a game with a .588 true shooting percentage, both career highs — with him they are in the crowded second tier in the East. He should be ready to go for the start of the season but there is no reason to rush him during the preseason.
Horford has not been fully cleared for contact as training camp is set to open next week, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
“He has made good progress. I think we are excited about having him back and healthy. I still think he’s got some hurdles to clear. He is not at 100 percent right now but I think we anticipate by opening night and through camp him getting to where he is totally cleared and ready to go. He’s had a heck of a summer. Al is diligent and works hard and takes care of himself so I think that will all be in a good place…
“He’ll be held out of contact early in training camp. He’ll progress through and get to where he’s got full clearance in everything but at the start of camp there will be some limitations.”
Horford’s a veteran, he doesn’t need the contact and extra drills of camp to be ready come opening night (just time to get some conditioning in).
Atlanta is basically the same team it was last year, just with Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore added for depth. It’s not a contending team, but not a bad one if healthy. But that starts with Horford. He’s the All-Star, the lynchpin, the must.
So no reason to rush him back.