Al Horford missed his third straight game when the Boston Celtics played at the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. Overall, it was Horford’s fourth missed game out of the Celtics last six. In recent days it came to light that the left knee soreness Horford is battling is patellofemoral pain syndrome, more commonly known as “runner’s knee”. This is a common condition in athletes, especially basketball players who are regularly involved in sprinting, quick cutting actions and jumping.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens indicated that Horford would be out for “a few games just to kind of get this thing feeling a lot better”. Stevens went on to compare Horford’s situation to that of Marcus Morris last season. Morris missed Boston’s first eight games of the 2017-18 season, then never looked quite right when he returned in early-November. Morris was shut down for the bulk of December, as he appeared in just two games over a 13 game stretch from December 6th through December 27th. Following that period of inactivity, Morris looked far better and finished the season healthy for the Celtics.
Danny Ainge gave a further update on Horford on Thursday morning on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich”:
“We’re giving him the extra rest so that it’s not a lingering effect. He could play now if he needed to, but we’re just trying to give him the rest to get back to being 100 percent.”
No timetable has been given from the Celtics on how long Horford’s absence will last, as it seems to be more of a day-to-day thing on how he’s feeling. It does seem clear that Horford will not return until he is fully ready and has no lingering pain in the knee. Boston has the depth to manage without Horford, as Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and rookie Robert Williams III have proven capable of holding down the pivot position while Horford is out.
Overall however, Horford’s importance to Boston can’t be overstated. He’s one of the best all-around centers in the NBA with his ability to handle, pass and shoot the ball from the perimeter. He’s also one of the most versatile defensive big men in the league. In recent games, while playing through the knee soreness, Horford had played some of his best basketball of the season.
With the Celtics rolling now in the midst of a seven-game win streak, it’s best to let Horford sit and get things right with his knee. Boston dug themselves in a hole to start the regular season, but have righted the ship over the last few weeks. To be the team they hope to be come the playoffs, they’ll need a healthy Al Horford. Sitting him now should lead to a bigger, and better, payoff down the line.