"We will work with Al and complete our due diligence to determine the next best steps for him,” Hawks president Danny Ferry said in a statement last week. “Injuries are part of the challenge of an NBA season.”
Horford suffered the injury during Atlanta's 127-125 double-overtime home victory over Cleveland on Dec. 26. With a little less than two minutes remaining in the first overtime period, Horford defended Anderson Varejao outside the three-point line. After stretching his right arm out in an attempt to deflect an inbounds pass, Horford immediately stopped playing and clutched his right shoulder area in evident pain.
Atlanta took a timeout after clearing the defensive rebound, and Horford departed the game with what the team initially called a "right shoulder injury." He would not return, finishing with 25 points (on 11-for-17 shooting), eight rebounds and four assists. The next day, the Hawks announced the injury as a "torn right pectoral muscle" and listed him as out indefinitely, pending the surgery.
The 27-year-old Horford previously tore his left pectoral muscle during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season, when he played in just 11 regular season games for Atlanta. Horford missed nearly four months in 2012, as he sat from Jan. 11 until May 6, when he returned for the first of three playoff games against the Celtics.
This injury is a big blow for the Hawks, who are currently the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed with an 18-14 record. First-year Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is making due with a frontcourt that includes Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll, Elton Brand, Gustavo Ayon and Pero Antic. The Point Forward's Rob Mahoney offered a full breakdown of Atlanta's options during Horford's absence.
Horford averaged a career-high 18.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 blocks per game this season, and he was a strong candidate to make the 2014 All-Star Game, which would have been the third selection of his career. At the time of his injury, Horford was Atlanta's leading scorer and rebounder. He was recently selected to The Point Forward's All-Ignored Team, which comprised the biggest snubs of the All-Star fan voting, and he ranked No. 22 in SI.com's Top 100 Players of 2014 earlier this year.