Blakely: Horford's return from concussion worth the wait


BOSTON -- There was a clear and undeniable uneasiness developing in Boston between Celtics fans and prized offseason signing Al Horford.
It all stemmed from the concussion Boston’s $113 million man suffered in practice on Halloween. It was pretty scary when you consider it sidelined him longer than anyone, Horford included, expected.
Social media became fertile ground to gripe about Horford’s concussion, an echo-chamber of sorts full of complaints.
“They should kut (sic) his pay for holding out,” read one message on Facebook.
“We need Crowder back not this center who moves like a slug and stands at the three point line,” read another.
And then there was this one: “Needs to toughen up you’re in Boston.”
Horford’s return to the floor this weekend definitely took longer than anyone would have liked.
But the wait has clearly been worth it with the 6-foot-10 big man playing better now than he did prior to be putting in the league’s concussion protocol program on Nov. 2.
The sample size is small, but nonetheless impressive.
In his two games back, Horford has averaged 19.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 3.0 blocks while shooting 50 percent (16-for-32) from the field and 40 percent (4-for-10) from 3-point range.
Horford is the first Celtic since Paul Pierce in 2002 to have consecutive games in which he had at least 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
And he’s not just an across-the-board stats guy, either.
In the five games he has played in, the Celtics are 4-1.
When Horford suffered his concussion, he fully expected to be back on the floor within a few days.
But as he admitted to recently, he didn’t know much about concussions until after he had suffered one.
“This whole time in general has been hard for me. Just because I’m learning like everybody else is about having a concussion,” Horford told “I never thought it was something that, that serious. But now I’m finding out. It’s really made me be more patient; I have to be.”
And so have Celtics fans who began this season with high hopes that Boston would live up to the hype and assert itself as one of the top teams in the East.
And while we have seen lots of players return the floor within days of suffering a concussion, Horford was emphatic when I spoke with him that he wasn’t going to set foot back on the court until he felt comfortable playing the brand of basketball that he is accustomed to.
While watching him closely in the two games he has been back, it makes perfect sense.
Remember, concussions are injuries to the brain.
And if you’ve watched Horford play, so much of what he does well is predicated on his ability as a thinker.
The in-the-moment passes he makes when pressured, the recognition he has for making a bad play into a great scoring opportunity, coming out of nowhere to block a shot at the rim … so much of what he does well has as much if not more to do with his intelligence and ability to make the right rapid-fire decisions, then it does his athleticism which is good but not great.
Knowing this about himself, why would he put himself in harm’s cross hairs by returning sooner than he felt comfortable with playing?
And as we’ve seen, his play has made the longer-than-expected wait for his return, worth it.

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