Yes, I know. “Why did it take so long?”“For a max contract we shouldn’t have to wait one minute for Al Horford to get rolling. ”“I don’t make that money and I do my job every single day. ”All of these reactions are completely understandable, but for a minute let’s separate the contract and NBA salary realities and the here and now facing the Celtics this postseason.

The Celtics badly need Al Horford right now and for the foreseeable future. It’s true, Al has not and never has (check his career numbers) put up stats that leave people on the T yapping back and forth about his amazing performances. That’s not who he is. However, this Boston Celtics team is MUCH better than last year’s team, and Horford has a lot to do with that.He is an excellent passer and creates beautiful spacing on offense, and he is a quite solid team defender and contributor overall on defense.

Al’s recent play is providing him with the opportunity to avoid a David Price-esque first year in Boston, and that is where he was heading. The team played well as a unit for the first 50-55 games or so but Horford dealt with injuries, inconsistent shooting, missed easy shots, and an overall level of play at times that didn’t feel juiced up with extra energy. Recently however Al Horford has really sprung to life. Let’s take a look at his last six games (Cs were 5-1 and went 0-2 with Al out during this stretch):

Cavs: 9 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 11

Lakers: 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 24

Warriors: 10 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1

Nuggets: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, -17

Bulls: 12 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 25

Twolves: 20 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 15

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Yes this is only a six game sample and basically plucking the best six game set of the year for Horford and displaying it. But, this is crunch time and it’s all we have. Right now the contract is meaningless and how Horford fits in with future versions of the Celtics isn’t crucial at this moment either.

These games average out to 13. 8 points, 6. 8 rebounds, 5. 8 assists, and 9. 8. These numbers are still below what Al Horford SHOULD BE producing like clockwork given his ability and leadership position by virtue of his status and contract. However, if he can perform at this level the rest of the way and through the playoffs that is a much better situation than what we saw from October through mid-February.

There isn’t any time left to evaluate performance versus contract this season. The Celtics have a very legitimate shot at making a deep playoff run. Al Horford is showing more enthusiasm and aggression recently than he has all year, and it looks like he is starting to really enjoy himself on the court. Here’s to pulling for Al to keep it going and help The Green take it as far as possible. There’s great opportunity right here and now for his team and him personally. A renewed sense of enthusiasm might be just what he needed.