In advance of the NBA's FIT Live Healthy week, we spoke to Hawks center Al Horford. Less than a week later, he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury. The good news? More time to devote to the NBA Fit program.
SI.com: Let's start with a health question I always wonder about. When it's mid-August and you're 2-3 months away from training camp. What motivates you to work out?
Al Horford: For me, I have that edge about myself. I don't ever want to get sloppy or else I know I'll look foolish out there. That's what motivates me and gets me going in the summer when I'm just sitting by the pool or couch. I just know I have to work out before I can enjoy my day.
SI.com: Let's talk about this season. How is it different playing with Paul Millsap as opposed to Josh Smith? He's obviously a different type of player.
Al Horford: They're both really good defenders. I'm getting used to playing with Paul more and more. He knows how to play the game and is usually at right place at right time. He's solid and reliable. The biggest thing for me is just developing that chemistry, whether it's Josh or Paul.
SI.com: Do you know why Millsap is never really a part of the conversation about the league's best power forwards?
Al Horford: I think it has a lot to do with his character. He's low key and a quiet guy for the most part and people have him under the radar. I think people are going to start talking more about him, especially this year because he's really a great player.
SI.com: Switching gears, you roomed with Joakim Noah at Florida. What was that like? Did he sleep at all?
Al Horford: You know, people think Joakim is the same way off the court as when he's on it. But Joakim is real laid back. We'd basically watch reality TV shows on VH1 or sleep. He would sleep a lot. If we weren't in the gym or practice, he was pretty much in the room hanging out. He is laid back but on the court is when he revs it up and you see this crazy side of him.
SI.com: Did you play video games and see that competitive side of him?
Al Horford: Corey [Brewer] and Taurean [Green] were the gamers. Joakim and I would just instigate them. He'd take one side, I'd take the other and we'd be just trash talk and go back and forth while they played. We weren't huge gamers so we'd just instigate and hang out.
SI.com: You grew up in the Dominican. Why didn't you play baseball?
Al Horford: My mom wanted me to play baseball. She didn't want me to play basketball. I started out young and was a good baseball player. I thought that's what I wanted to play. But then I started watching my dad's [Tito Horford] basketball games and right away, I was like this is what I want to do. So when I told my mom that she was devastated. She tried to get me to play both sports but I was like, 'Nah I'll stick with basketball.'
SI.com: Did you have a 'Welcome to the NBA' moment as a rookie?
Al Horford: My first preseason game was against the Heat and Shaq was still on the team. I was coming to the league thinking I would play power forward but they wanted me to play the five because Josh [Smith] was there. So my first game was against Shaq and and he comes up to me at halfcourt before the game, gives me a hug and is like, 'Hey young fella. Welcome to the NBA.' And he was being so nice and I was thinking, 'Wow that's Shaq. That was so awesome.' So on the first play he backs me up into the post and elbowed me right in my forehead. I was like, 'Oh my god.' It didn't bleed or anything but it knocked me way back. They called an offensive foul but it hurt and that was kinda my welcome to the NBA moment, in the post trying to guard Shaq.
SI.com: Do you miss having Zaza Pachulia? It's your first year without him and I know he was a big body up front who could help protect you.
Al Horford: For sure. Not only on the court but we are really good friends off the court. His family and my family have a really good relationship.
SI.com: Are there one or two guys on schedule you know will be a handful?
Al Horford: A guy like Dirk [Nowitzki] is hard because he shoots the ball really well but he can drive too and it's not like he can explode by you but he's the kind of guy who will keep you on your toes with all his pump fakes. And even a guy like DeMarcus Cousins - he's a good player and can do the same. He's not super explosive but really hard to guard.
SI.com: Okay, so the game is over and you get back home. What shows are on your DVR?
Al Horford: I love Boardwalk Empire. I love America Dad and Family Guy.
SI.com: Are you glad Brian is back?
Al Horford: I'm a few weeks behind so don't spoil it.
SI.com: Lastly, I dug into our photo archives for some old pics of your dad. Tell me what comes to mind when you see these.
Al Horford: That's hilarious. I remember my parents always talk to me about the LSU days and the short time he was there. There was all this hype when he was going in with Dale Brown and everything. So seeing this picture it's just really funny. You know I'm looking at my dad's body type and mine and it's funny because they're so similar.
Al Horford: Those shorts, man. I've talked to him about that but he'll say, 'Hey man, that's how we used to do it.' But 20 years from now, I'll have kids and they'll be laughing at me for what I'm wearing now.
Al Horford: That was the cool look. The flat top. That was the way to go back then. He used to curl it up at the top and put a perm on it. He'd put gel on it. He used to play around with that pretty good."
SI.com: Do you remember meeting any players when you were younger?
Al Horford: My dad played with Dominican National Team so I met Felipe Lopez, who played at St. John's. I used to carry his bag and play 1-on-1 with him. He works for the NBA now so every time he sees me, it's hard for him to believe that I was that little kid running around the gym all the time.
SI.com: How old were you when you first beat you dad at 1-on-1? Al Horford: You know the funny thing with him is that once I got to be a sophomore in high school, he would never want to play me 1-on-1. He'd rather play me in HORSE. We'd play as a family with my brother who's at Michigan now. Every time we get together in the gym, we're having these shooting battles. He used to beat me pretty good in high school playing HORSE all the time but when I got to college, things changed. Now I get him all the time.