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13. Atlanta Hawks
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The chiseled Horford should make his presence felt.
Bob Rosato/SI
Fast Fact
Josh Smith became the first Hawk to have 200 blocks and 100 steals in the same season. He and the Nuggets' Marcus Camby, the Defensive Player of the Year, were the only players to reach both marks in 200607.
Telling Numbers
Record: 30-52 (13th in East)
Points scored: 93.7 (30th in NBA)
Points allowed: 98.4 (15th)
Coach: Mike Woodson (fourth season with Hawks)
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This two-time NCAA champion will provide physical play. But wins? Later, Gator

Al Horford was the third pick in the June draft, but the 6' 10", 245-pound big man still has to pay his NBA dues. That's why veteran center Lorenzen Wright blocked him from riding an elevator on the first day of training camp.

"He told me I couldn't get on because I was a rookie," Horford says. "The other guys were all laughing. As the doors were closing, I said, I'll see you in practice tomorrow.' "

It's that kind of self-assertion that makes the Hawks think they have found a potential star. The former Florida standout has the size and strength to give Atlanta some much-needed muscle down low. Though he's not a big scorer, his ability to handle the ball and pass should mesh well with the talents of athletic wingmen Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Josh Childress. "He bangs and rebounds and does good things around the basket," Hawks coach Mike Woodson says of Horford, "and he's a very confident young man. He doesn't seem to get rattled."

Horford -- whose father, Tito, spent parts of three seasons in the NBA -- certainly doesn't show any fear. At Florida, coach Billy Donovan dubbed him the Godfather for the respect he engendered, and his quiet but forceful presence was crucial to the Gators' back-to-back NCAA title runs.

Horford's physical and emotional readiness have made him a popular preseason pick for Rookie of the Year. Fellow rookie Acie Law, a poised point guard from Texas A&M, also has heard his name mentioned. Either would be the first Hawks player to be so honored since Bob Pettit in 1955. "Right now I'm thinking more of team goals," Horford says, "but I feel myself and Acie can come in and help right away."

Wright and the other Atlanta veterans might want to start holding a spot on the elevator. After all, Horford just might be the guy to take them to greater heights. -- Marty Burns

Issue date: October 29, 2007

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