Hor­ford’s on af­ter days off

Rest time has done his knee won­ders

Boston Herald - - SPORTS - BY MARK MUR­PHY Twit­ter: @Murf56

If you no­ticed an ad­di­tional burst — more en­ergy — in Al Hor­ford dur­ing Thurs­day night’s win over the Knicks, you’re not alone.

The Celtics cen­ter felt the surge too af­ter play­ing for the first time in five days, and in only his third game in 10. Hor­ford has been nagged by pain in his left knee and has had to have his play­ing time man­aged ear­lier than usual.

“It’s been huge for me,” he said of the rest pro­gram. “We’ve been go­ing at such a high rate, and the fact that we’re home, I’ll take as many days as I can to get my knee right.”

Hor­ford was an early force against the Knicks, scor­ing the C’s last 11 points of the sec­ond quar­ter, twice hook­ing up on lobs from Mar­cus

Smart. He fin­ished with a 19point, 12-re­bound dou­ble­dou­ble that was his most pro­duc­tive over­all night of the sea­son.

“Four or five days off will get you that,” he said.

Hor­ford has av­er­aged 18 points over his last three games — eas­ily his most pro­lific stretch of the sea­son, and a tes­ta­ment to im­proved health in his knee.

The only thing that’s a bit of a mys­tery is the cause of the sore­ness.

“I’m re­ally not sure. The knee is ir­ri­tated,” he said. “It’s not hold­ing me back, it’s not lim­it­ing me and it’s not get­ting worse.”

But with ad­vanc­ing age, at least in an NBA con­text, the need for time man­age­ment has be­come more of a pri­or­ity for Hor­ford.

“That’s the thing we’re be­ing con­scious of,” he said. “We’re be­ing cau­tious now so these things don’t linger and I’m at my best.”

The work load may in­crease fairly quickly, though, head­ing into tonight’s game in Chicago, with Aron Baynes doubt­ful with a sprained left an­kle.

“I think any time that you can get off your feet a lit­tle bit is a good thing — that’s why Sun­day and Mon­day (rest days) were just as im­por­tant as the prac­tices,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Be­cause they were off that stretch of games. Prior to (the break) was dif­fi­cult and long, and the travel was sig­nif­i­cant. And so it was good to be able to do that and I think that aided ev­ery­body. But, you know, I think that (Hor­ford has) had some re­ally good games here in the last cou­ple weeks.”

Bird still on roster

Jabari Bird, fac­ing do­mes­tic as­sault charges stem­ming from a Septem­ber in­ci­dent in­volv­ing a girl­friend, re­mains on the Celtics roster as his court case con­tin­ues.

Next up is a pre-trial hear­ing in Brighton Dis­trict Court on Dec. 18 — Bird has pleaded not guilty — though noth­ing de­fin­i­tive is ex­pected to come out of the hear­ing as both sides con­tinue to ne­go­ti­ate. The NBA could even­tu­ally sus­pend Bird un­der terms of the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment, thus free­ing up a roster spot for the Celtics. But it prob­a­bly won’t in­ter­view Bird un­til the le­gal case reaches a con­clu­sion.

A pre­ma­ture move by the league could lead to le­gal ac­tion by Bird and the Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, ty­ing up the process fur­ther. As such, it may be a mat­ter of months be­fore the Celtics have an an­swer.

Surg­ing of­fense

Much to Stevens’ sur­prise, con­sid­er­ing the scor­ing problems his team had as re­cently as two weeks ago, the Celtics’ of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion has surged.

Thurs­day’s 128-100 win against New York was the C’s fourth straight game of 115 or more points, and the first time they have put to­gether that kind of stretch since 1990.

Ac­cord­ing to Hor­ford, it’s not co­in­ci­den­tal that Gor­don

Hay­ward has emerged over the same stretch as a play­mak­ing force off the bench.

“I think it has to do with us just un­der­stand­ing what coach wants from us and also mak­ing the game easy for one an­other,” Hor­ford said. “We’re start­ing to de­velop that chem­istry. I think that Gor­don again (Thurs­day), the num­bers prob­a­bly won’t show it, but his im­pact and the way he is get­ting oth­ers in­volved, he is mak­ing the right plays, he is be­ing ag­gres­sive and he just makes us look com­pletely dif­fer­ent. I think a lot of it has to do with Gor­don’s play.”


HIGH RISER: Al Hor­ford reaches up to block a shot by the Knicks’ Enes Kan­ter dur­ing the Celtics’ vic­tory Thurs­day at the Gar­den.

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