Atlanta Hawks all-star center Al Horford has been cleared for contact practices, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, raising speculation that he may return to the court before the NBA Playoffs begin. Horford has missed nearly all of the 2012 NBA season with a torn pectoral muscle, but continues to progress in his rehab, having previously been cleared for non-contact work two weeks ago.
Horford suffered the injury on January 12 against the Indiana Pacers, and most expected his recovery time to last 3-4 months. Despite his absence, the Hawks have managed to work their way into the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. With Horford returning, they become much more dangerous in the playoffs.
Horford has career averages of 12.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, but really came on in 2010-11, earning his first All-Star berth. The 25-year old big man had played in just 11 games this season before the injury.