Horford’s on after days off
Rest time has done his knee wonders
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.
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.