Al Horford’s Rookie Diary

Periodically throughout his rookie season, Hawks rookie Al Horford will be
checking in to give his thoughts on how his first season in the NBA is
progressing. Horford, who is a native of the Dominican Republic, will be keeping
the diary in both English and
Spanish. Check back periodically for new entries!

4/20/2008

It's been a long season, but it's not over yet - your Atlanta Hawks will be
taking on Boston Sunday in the first round of the NBA playoffs!

The
regular season has been full of surprises and I've been fortunate enough to be
part of this team. Now that we're officially in the playoffs, I remember talking
to some of my Florida teammates back at the 2007 draft and I remember them
saying, `Yo Al... are you cool that you're going to Atlanta?' And I was like, `why
wouldn't I be?'

I told them with the addition of myself and Acie Law to the guys playing in
Atlanta, I really felt like we had a solid shot at reaching the playoffs.
Obviously bringing in a guy like Mike Bibby before the deadline helped us out a
lot, but it feels good to say that as soon as I knew I was coming here and I saw
what they had here, I felt good about our chances of making it to the
postseason.

The Bibby trade worked out really well for us. I obviously miss those guys that
went to Sacramento and I got to be good friends with them, but when you bring in
a guy like Mike and the way that he affects the game, it's been a huge addition
for us. He's been clutch in close situations - like the buzzer-beating
three-pointer against Toronto - and since the playoff race went down to the
wire, who knows where we'd be without him?

While I haven't played in my first NBA playoff game yet, I am getting excited
just thinking about it. There's so much intensity and emotion and everyone steps
up and gives it their all, and those are my favorite games to play in. We
already played up in Boston twice and they played down here Saturday, and even
though they beat us three times this season, the playoffs are like a whole new
season. You go out there with a swagger, you're there for a reason and you try
to make some things happen. And if Golden State could beat Dallas in the first
round last year, anything is possible. If we play our game, you never know what
could happen.

I've had a lot of friends and family members who have been coming to games all
season, and haven't talked about who's specifically going to come to what game
for the playoffs, but I'm anticipating some company in Boston and even more for
the games in Atlanta.

Even as a pro, I still get a lot of advice from friends and family, like `maybe
you should shoot the ball more often,' `you have to look for yourself more' and
other things like that. They all just want to see me do well, so I have to
appreciate that, and it has always been that way and will probably be like that
for the rest of my career.

The best advice-giver in my family definitely has to be my mom. She won't even
talk that much about basketball, but she's an expert on the little mental
things, and she's helped me stay focused all season. Staying right mentally is
one of the biggest parts of the game and she gets that. She leaves the X's and
O's to me and just helps me keep my head on straight.

In retrospect, I think I've had a great season, good enough to be one of the
candidates for Rookie of the Year and in my eyes, good enough to win it. It's
obviously up to the voters now, so it will be interesting to see how everything
turns out, but I just want to thank all of my teammates, coaches, friends,
family and fans for all of your support this season.

Finally, I want to thank the Hawks fans for their amazing support all year. I've
heard it's been a bit of a wait for some of you, but we're honored to represent
the ATL in the 2008 NBA postseason.

3/24/2008

March Madness is upon us once again, Hawks fans, and as you might remember,
I've got a bit of experience in late March and early April. So I'll be your
resident bracketologist for this all-NCAA tournament installment of my Rookie
Diary!

It
definitely feels a little strange this year not playing in the tournament. I
guess the most noticeable thing about watching as a spectator is how big of a
deal it is. I didn't really follow the tournament when I was younger and when I
was playing in it, I didn't really see how much of a circus it was with the
bracketology, the media hype and all that stuff. When we were playing in the
tournament, we stayed away from all of that and just tried to keep our heads in
the game.

One of the first questions people ask me is which championship felt better to
win. I've thought about this a lot, and the more and more I think about it, I
think that the second was really meaningful and more enjoyable. I look back at
our first championship run and that first week in New Jersey and remember being
so on edge. Those games were nerve-wracking, but after we won that first
championship and all of us decided to come back and play another year when we
could have gone pro, that was really special and the second championship run
felt even more meaningful.

I can't really say that I miss being in the tournament, though I really enjoyed
the time that I played. I feel like I had my time playing in the tournament and
I did everything I wanted to do. Now, I go out and watch the games and get
hyped, but right now, my biggest concern is trying to help the Hawks make the
playoffs, and I've got more of an NBA mentality now.

This is kind of a cool time of year to be in the NBA though, because almost
everybody in the league has played in the tournament and everyone gets excited
about it. In the Hawks locker room, a lot of guys have their team that they
played for in college - Chil' played for Stanford, Marvin played for North
Carolina, Acie played for Texas A&M - and they always represent them. Marvin
even does what Jordan did and wears Carolina shorts under his game shorts. I try
to represent Florida even though we didn't make the tournament this year, and I
guess that's how most guys in the NBA are.

I'm competing in the Hawks bracket challenge this year and I am feeling pretty
confident about my picks. I actually went out on a limb a little bit and picked
some upsets, and judging on how the tournament has gone so far, I'm thinking
there are going to be a lot of them this year.

I feel like I have a good feel for what it takes for teams to do well in the
tournament just from playing in it, but there's just so much that's left up to
chance. Even if you know a lot about the teams, you are never going to be 100
percent right, and the people that are usually know the least about it.

I think the team to beat this year is UCLA. You don't make it to the Final Four
two years in a row by mistake. They've got a solid team again this year, so you
can definitely bank on them making a run to the Final Four.

One of my sleeper teams is Wisconsin. I have them going to the Final Four from
the Midwest region and nobody agrees with me so far. I like their style of play
and the way they defend. They're a solid team and they won the Big 10 regular
season and the Big 10 tournament for a reason.

But this year, I can't see anybody topping the Bruins. The final verdict? I've
got UCLA over North Carolina in the Finals.

3/06/2008

Wow! Even though it's been a couple of weeks, my head is still spinning from
the craziness that was All-Star Weekend in the Big Easy. It was pretty
overwhelming. The NBA made sure we stayed busy talking to the media and doing
work with NBA Cares and all that stuff, but I definitely got out and did my own
thing as well.

Probably the coolest thing I did outside of basketball was this charity
celebrity pool tournament with Alonzo Mourning and Magic Johnson. It was a
pretty big deal down there. There were a lot of celebrities there, and a lot of
players that I've watched over the years, NBA legends and stuff. One of the
highlights of the evening was meeting Chris Tucker. I've seen him at a few Hawks
games, but I've never gotten a chance to talk to him. One of my favorite movies
is Friday, so when I got to meet him, that was really exciting for me.

Besides
that, I definitely went out, hit up Bourbon Street a couple of times and checked
out the whole scene. It was kind of crazy though, so I didn't stay out too long.

My family enjoyed everything too, just the whole weekend experience. My mom got
to talk to different players like Steve Nash and a lot of other guys from the
All-Star team - she was really excited about that. A lot of those guys knew my
dad because he used to play in the NBA, and he spent the weekend catching up
with old friends and teammates, so it was a neat experience for him too.

Unfortunately the rookies couldn't pull it out this year against the sophomores.
Honestly, I thought that we matched up well against them. I really felt like
everything was going well for us and then Daniel Gibson just caught on fire! It
seemed like he couldn't miss any of his shots and even though we were making
twos, he was making threes. Eventually, that made a big difference.

I would have to say that I was impressed with a lot of the guys on the rookie
squad. Mike Conley Jr. was making me look pretty good out there with some of the
passes he was dishing me. I was really impressed with his game. Kevin Durant was
obviously amazing as well, and I thought we really played well together.

But the highlight of the weekend for me had to be the dunk contest. Oh man, talk
about a show! I was so into it from the beginning and it lived up to all the
hype. All those guys got really creative - Jamario Moon, Gerald Green and Rudy
Gay -and it was more than I expected, but my man Dwight Howard stole the show.

I remember talking to Dwight the Friday before the contest, and he was like
"I've got to go practice my dunks." He was so serious about it. I didn't think
he was going to be able to pull it off just because it's hard for big guys to
pull things off like that, but he had me from the first dunk. It was just
ridiculous, the one where he threw it off the back of the backboard and
windmilled it in. There was no way he could have seen the rim with his head
behind the backboard, and he made it look effortless.

I got a chance to sit with LeBron, Daniel Gibson and all those guys during the
Dunk Contest and when Dwight laid down that first dunk, everyone just looked
around at each other and was like "no way." I had to look at the replay to see
if he actually did what I thought he did. And he did. I think by far, that was
the dunk that got to me the most.

The All-Star game this year was great as well. I always like watching LeBron
play his game, but the guy who really impressed me this year was Chris Paul. He
really just took over at some point during the game. He definitely has good
vision out on the floor and just makes the game easy for everybody else, plus he
can score. I was really impressed with him.

Now we're back trying to close out the final six weeks of the season. We made a
key acquisition with Mike Bibby before the trade deadline, and he's been helping
my game out a lot by just talking to me and giving me pointers. It seems like
every day he comes up to me and says something different about what I should do
or how I should do something in a game, and it's really helped.

It was definitely different adding Mike in the middle of the season. I'm a big
team guy, and I'm used to playing with the same guys from the beginning of the
season to the end like I did at Florida and being able to say "these are my
guys." But when I met Mike and we started practicing together, I saw the type of
guy that he is and I'm really excited to have him on our side.

Finally, I just got word that I was voted the
Eastern Conference Rookie of the
Month for February
. It's definitely an honor, and I think that if I can help the
Hawks take care of business these next few weeks and we are able to finish the
season the right way and put ourselves in a playoff situation, it's really going
to put me in a solid spot for Rookie of the Year. I feel like if I help the team
win and keep doing what I'm doing, I'll be one of the top guys at the end of the
year.

2/11/2008

Hey Hawks fans, it's almost time for me to pack my bags for New Orleans!
That's right, I was selected to play in the "Rookie Challenge" game at this
year's NBA All-Star Weekend.

I
found out a week or so ago when we had just gotten into LA from Phoenix on our
west coast trip. I came down in the morning and ran into Jon Steinberg, one of
the Hawks PR guys, who was smiling. He told me "Congratulations, you made the
game!" I didn't really know when they were going to announce it, but my mom and
I had been talking about it and we kind of had a feeling that I was going to
make the team. But when Jon told me, it was so exciting to know I had officially
made it!

Other than my Hawks teammate Joe Johnson (who made the Eastern Conference
All-Star squad for the second year in a row!), I'm going on the trip with a
couple of guys I went to school with down in Florida - not any of the guys I
played with, because they're all taking a well-deserved rest over the break -
but just some other buddies I hung out with at school. I also have a lot of
family members coming, and I'm excited about that as well.

It's going to be a fun experience and I just want to go out there, enjoy myself
and have a good time with the other players. It's mostly for fun, and hopefully
we'll get a win against the sophomores. Man, that would be big. The name of the
game is the "Rookie Challenge," so we know we're the ones with something to
prove. The sophomores have already been in the league a year-and-a-half, and if
the rookies can come in and win this game, it would be huge.

This year's rookie squad is a little different though, because we've got guys
like Luis Scola and Juan Carlos Navarro who are probably older than most of the
sophomores and are going to be playing on our team. Those guys have been around
some playing ball overseas, so I'm sure they'll be able to help us out and give
us some pointers.

But really, I'm just excited about going to New Orleans in general. I'm just
concerned with going out there and having a good time. And I'm also excited
about the dunk contest. I feel like this year it's going to be a good one.
There's been a lot of hype and anticipation for it and one of my fellow rookies
Jamario Moon, he's been telling people to "get the popcorn ready," so I want to
see what that's about.

Finally, I want to give a shout out from the entire Hawks nation to Joe Johnson
for making the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the second consecutive time.
I think it speaks a lot of him. Obviously, people are starting to recognize that
he's really one of the elite guys in the league and that he demands so much
attention on a team's defense. We're all really proud of you, Joe, and we're all
going to be cheering you on in the Big Easy.

1/17/2008

Man, these past few months have flown by. It definitely doesn't feel like it
should be this far into the season. Beating Chicago on Sunday was a huge win for
us. The Hawks haven't beaten them since 2004, and it's always great when you can
beat a team that plays as tough as Chicago does. I have to take my hat off to
Joe Johnson and Josh Childress, who were both big keys to that victory. They
came out and they were really aggressive, and it was awesome to watch them just
dominate.

I'll
be going on my first west coast trip soon, and we've got some tough road games
ahead at Denver and Phoenix. I think the biggest key for us on this trip is to
come out each night ready to play. When you're on the road, you don't have any
fan support, so you and your teammates always have to stick together. My plan
for this trip is to stay focused, get my rest and come out every night ready to
play.

I'm excited to play in some new cities on the west coast. So far in my NBA
career, the most fun city to travel to has been Dallas for me. When we played
there in last month, I got to check out the city, had a nice dinner and I just
enjoyed the whole scene out there - It's a really nice place. I also like New
Orleans a lot - when we played there during preseason, Acie, Mario and I all
went out to dinner at a fancy steakhouse and kind of got to know each other.

Speaking of New Orleans, the All-Star game is only a month away! One of the
preseason goals I set for myself was to make the All-Star rookie game. They
haven't made the announcement for it yet, so I'm just playing and doing whatever
it takes to help the Hawks win. I feel like that's the whole key for me, and if
it's something that happens, it will be a great experience, but right now I'm
definitely focused on the Hawks and trying to get wins.

As for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, all of you have GOT to
vote for Joe
Johnson
! The dude is such a tough player and can go in and change a game like
nobody else. If you need a big basket, he's your go-to guy, and he's always
getting his teammates involved. I mean, he had 19 points in the first quarter
against the Bulls! Please do the ATL a favor and vote Joe Johnson for All-Star.

Some people have already started asking me about the playoffs this year. Lets
not get ahead of ourselves here, people, it's way too early and the season isn't
even halfway over! That being said, I definitely think it's important for us to
take care of business now so when the end of the season comes, we're in a good
situation and we can start talking about actually being in the playoffs. I
really feel like this next month is very key for us to get some wins and build
our momentum.

1/4/2008

What's up Hawks fans? This is Al Horford coming at you with the first
installment of my rookie diary.

My
first NBA season has been crazy so far. It's really ironic that I ended up
coming here to Atlanta. In college, we won two SEC tournaments here and our
second national championship, and I remember how before I got drafted, my mom
told me how much she liked the city, and how much she would like for me to play
here.

Going through training camp and preseason was kind of surreal, but right before
our first regular-season game, the home opener against Dallas, is when it hit me
that I was really playing in the NBA. Seeing Dirk on the court and seeing a lot
of the guys I've been watching play for the last three years was so exciting for
me, and I think that's when it finally felt like I was in the NBA.

The biggest difference between the college and the pro game I've seen so far is
the level of competition. Everybody that you go against is good, and anybody on
any given team can have a great game, so you have to be able to come up and keep
your intensity the whole game.

Adjusting to an 82-game season has been different as well. In college, our
season would almost be over with the number of games we've played so far, but
the Hawks season isn't even halfway over. I really feel like in the rookie
transition that the NBA had, one of the points they really emphasized was making
sure that we take care of ourselves and rest our bodies and that's what I've
been trying to do, eating right and resting. I think being in top shape is the
most important way to be successful because we have so many games and practices.

My proudest accomplishment so far would definitely be winning the Eastern
Conference Rookie of the Month in November. It was definitely a great honor and
it means a lot to me to get started the right way and have a strong start to my
NBA career.

I've been keeping up pretty well with my Florida teammates. We constantly stay
in touch, whether it's through text messaging or talking on the phone once or
twice a week. We share different experiences that we're going through, and we're
still pretty tight.

I'm also getting along really well with my new Hawks teammates. We have a great
group of guys, and you can tell that they want to win. Acie Law, Mario West and
I are especially close, being rookies together, and we spend a lot of time
together. We're all kind of going through the rookie experience together right
now.

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