After nearly two weeks on the sidelines, it looks like Al Horford is close to returning to the Celtics lineup soon. In his absence, the Celtics have taken a step back early in the season. In the five games Horford has missed as of Saturday afternoon, the Celtics have lost three of them. All of those losses have seen the Celtics down by 20 points at some time in the game.

In all five Horford-less games the Celtics have been out-rebounded. In fact, they have been out-rebounded by an average of 10. 2 rebounds per game in that span. If nothing else, they can really use Horford’s career game average of 8. 9 rebounds. Additionally, with Jae Crowder slated to return next week, Boston can start experiencing some different outcomes.

The time that Horford has missed has clearly been a nightmare for the Green. When they were blown out by the likes of Denver and Washington and for the first time in the Brad Stevens era, their effort came into question. The signing of Horford definitely raised expectations for the Celtics and they might have been a little too confident in themselves. That’s not to blame this on him, these injuries will happen, but character has certainly been lacking in his absence.

Getting Back On Track and Horford’s Return

The Celtics finally got back on track with a demolition of the New York Knicks on Friday. Both Carmelo Anthony and Brandon Jennings were ejected, resulting in a 28-point Celtic victory. This should give them some momentum (finally) going into a mini two-game road trip. Not only have they gained momemtum, but they could gain their big-ticket signing.

Horford has clearly progressed in the concussion protocol, as he traveled with the team to Indianapolis. While he was fit enough to fly, he will not be available for the game against the Pacers Saturday night. This may just be a precaution as it seems he will be back in uniform Monday night when they take on the Pelicans. While New Orleans is not a top-tier team, Anthony Davis could make the night a living hell for the Celtics if Horford is unavailable. Sure, no one has been able to stop Davis this year, but Horford could neutralize him just enough.

Of course, Al Horford is a major piece to the Celtics puzzle this year. Getting him back would be extremely beneficial. I’m sure most Celtics fans were expecting a better effort from the team while he was in street clothes, but he’s clearly close to a much-anticipated return.