Hawks' Horford talks about injury, rehab

Hawks center Al Horford has been sidelined since December with a torn pectoral muscle. For the first time he discusses how the injury happened, his rehab process and if he'll return for the playoffs.

For the second time in three years, Al Horford is missing most of the season because of pectoral injury.

Daniel Shirey / USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA -- Speaking for the first time since he suffered a torn right pectoral muscle on Dec. 26, Hawks center Al Horford was in a good mood on Thursday, laughing at his own expense at the injury that has ended his season.

The Hawks have sorely missed the presence of their two-time All-Star, as they have lost 13 of 15 games entering Thursday's game with Milwaukee at Philips Arena.

Horford said he was sitting on the bench in that game against Cleveland after initially injuring the muscle and thinking about re-entering the game. But he decided to go back to an examining room with the Cavaliers' team doctor.

As he recounted the incident, he himself was laughing, as were his audience of media members.

"The Cleveland doctor said, 'I'm going to take a look at you. I need you to lay on the table,'" Horford said, "and I went to lay on the table and it -- actually something there popped and I just saw his face and I screamed. It hurt pretty badly.

"'Yeah, you need a doctor to check that out,'" Horford said the doctor told him. "I couldn't even take my shirt off. His face was priceless. There I knew it wasn't looking good."

Presently, the Hawks hold the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. Horford said even if the Hawks advance to the second round, he does not expect to be able to return by then.

That was the case in 2012 when Horford tore his left pectoral muscle. He played in 11 regular season games then returned for three playoff games.

Horford also laughed in disbelief at his misfortune. He said it is believed that NBA players have only torn pectoral muscle three times and two of them belong to him. He said when he underwent surgery the doctor found scar tissue in the injured area and that this injury was more severe than when he tore his left pec. He also said the doctor told him that the injury was a case of the straw that broke the camel's back.

Nonetheless, he believes in the long run the injury will make him into a better player. He said that assistant coach Darvin Ham, who works with the team's big men, was telling him that as soon as he is medically cleared, he will begin to work Horford out on his left (and weaker) side. Horford said he thinks by improving his left, it will improve his game.

For now, Horford is confined to the elliptical machine, stationary bicycle and abdominal and back exercises.

Through it all, he has kept a positive attitude and that sense of humor.

"It's one of those things that it happened and you can either let it get you down or you can look forward and start focusing on the next thing," he said. "For me, this is a setback. It's a small challenge but I welcome it. It's something that I've experienced before. I can do it. I know I can."​