Al Horford's not dead; he's feeling better, actually!

(Bring out yer dead!)

The same could be said about the Boston Celtics, and quite possibly their fans too, with a sense of possible impending doom seemingly swept away last night by the blowout win against the New York Knicks, and this morning with the news that Horford has finally made progress in the rigorous NBA concussion protocol after a five-game absence.

After what has been an especially tense week for many - and not just because of Boston's poor play of late - it seems like the ship may finally have been righted. Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk both seem to have found a rhythm, and a Horford return suggests a healthy roster might come as soon as Monday night's game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

We cannot overemphasize how important the next several games against teams like the Pels, Indiana Pacers, and Dallas Mavericks will be to re-establishing chemistry before facing the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors, where Jae Crowder and company surely have an eye to make a statement after being spurned by a player I won't bother naming this summer.

Horford - perhaps more than anyone - figures to be key over that stretch, and in that marquee matchup too, having missed several games where his absence has really highlighted how important he has become. The absence of Jared Sullinger and competent rebounders more generally has desperately needed his 5.3 boards per game, and his court vision and scoring ability sorely missed in a team with arguably only one other consistent offensive option (Isaiah Thomas) who he himself helped to find a solution to contain.

For the first time since the injury, Horford had some comments on his experience in the protocol and near-future outlook, as reported by the Providence Journal's Scott Souza:

"I feel good ... I’m very encouraged by the progress that we’ve made. I’m excited to be back as soon as possible ... The past two days have been really good for me ... I was able to get on the court a lot more. I was able to run up and down, do a lot of movement, a lot of stuff I wasn’t able to do a couple of days ago ... It’s a really good sign ... I’m happy that I get to travel now and I’m looking forward to being close to playing."

Specifically regarding dealing with the protocol, Horford said:

"I honestly didn’t understand it before now ... I would always hear stuff, see documentaries and stuff, but you don’t fully understand (until it happens to you). With an ankle or a knee, I’ve played through pain. It’s no problem. With the brain, it’s a little different ... It’s been a challenge for me. I’ve had to be patient. But the good thing is that now I am at the point where I am starting to feel good again."

It's not certain Horford will play against Indiana, but given he's travelling with the team, it seems likely he'll make his return either Saturday against that team, or Monday against the Pels. With the way things have been until last night, it won't be a moment too soon.

(We can't take them like that - it's against regulation!)

Horford photo via the Boston Herald
Follow Justin via @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 11/12/2016 10:22:00 AM Edit
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