Al Horford Talks Kevin Garnett As Enforcer
Hawks All-Star Al Horford gives his thoughts on Celtics forward Kevin Garnett who has received plenty of negative press as of late for his trash talking and physical play
NBA All-Star weekend is a time when on the court foes become friends and heated battles take a backseat to camaraderie and good natured fun. For instance the Hawks and Celtics have developed a much underrated rivalry in their own right since Atlanta pushed Boston to seven games in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.
Performing in the middle of the competition is Atlanta’s two-time All-Star center Al Horford and Boston’s fourteen time All-Star and future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. Recently Garnett has become notoriously known for incessant trash talk, rougher play and the utilization of mind games when dealing with the league’s younger players.
Horford, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 draft, was no exception to the rule entering the league and admitted he’s participated in a couple of heated exchanges with Garnett
"Yeah a little bit," Horford admitted. "We went back and forth. It’s pretty explicit but basically he’s letting you know that he runs things and he’s the man and he’s great."
But Horford hasn’t allowed the frequent trash talk from Garnett to rattle his game when the two teams face each other. The former University of Florida standout seems to accept this as a part of Garnett’s shtick.
"That’s him," Horford said. "You can’t take it to heart. I think a lot of guys can get caught up in that, but you have to go out there and you have to play. Yeah it can make you mad but at the end of the day you’re out there playing basketball. He acts one way on the court but here [All-Star weekend] he’s totally different."
Many believe that as Garnett’s once dominant physical skills started to erode the veteran forward turned toward on court intimidation as a method to mask some of those declines. Garnett has been labeled a typical playground bully and even a "fake tough guy" since the season began. His teammates love him, while opposing teams have been strongly critical.
However Horford believes regardless of what antics Garnett applies, players must ultimately remain focused and successfully handle in-game confrontations with grace.
"You have to be aware of it and sometimes it gets the best of you," Horford said. "They have such a strong core that I feel like they [Boston] all rally up around him and each other. That’s not a bad thing. I actually think that’s a good thing.
Unfortunately for the Western Conference All-Stars, Garnett and Horford are unified for the weekend and the fourth year pro sees something different in the Celtics’ star.
"Completely different," Horford said referring to Garnett’s demeanor toward him as a teammate. "Obviously you’re on his side so he’s talking bad about the West. So he’s actually enjoyable to play with this weekend."
Atlanta Hawks five-time All-Star and leading scorer Joe Johnson admitted that sharing a locker room with guys in the same conference still takes a little getting used to.
"It is a little different," Johnson said. "Throughout the regular season there is so much hostility on the court, guys are banging and getting on each other’s face. But we get a chance to come together for one special weekend and just hang out and kind of put all of that to the side, and that’s pretty much what happened. I think guys tend to really kind of forget about it and just enjoy the weekend and just embrace everything that goes on around us."
"Those guys are all great to hang out with. I’ve gotten the luxury to pretty much play on the same team with some of them, and with this being my fifth consecutive All-Star Game, we have all pretty much been here together. It’s been an honor and a blessing, and you know, those guys have been great."
Horford Still Wants More Minutes At Power Forward
The Hawks haven’t been able to secure a legitimate starting center to complement Horford on the interior. Additionally, Atlanta’s front office wants no part of paying a luxury tax this season, especially with a new CBA coming sometime down the road.
Nevertheless Horford continues to give his honest feedback when asked if he desires to play more power forward – his natural position.
"I see myself as a forward-center," Horford said. "So I really try to just play to my advantages, especially in the post. I know I have to do my moves quicker, but I think that it takes a lot of pressure off of me when I get to guard guys my own size as opposed to guys 50-60 pounds more than me."
Horford’s 6’10 245 pound frame routinely takes a pounding from the league’s bigger centers. His dad, Tito Horford, has been "begging" Hawks executive vice president and general manager Rick Sund to acquire a center to take some of the pressure off of his son down low.
The elder Horford believes the pounding has contributed to his son missing games this season. In the two notable contests in which Horford missed against New Orleans and Philadelphia the Hawks were blown out by 41 and 34 points respectively (at home).