Rocky Mountain notebook: Horford proving 'he is ready for this level'

Updated: July 16, 2007, 11:54 AM ET
By Tim Buckley | Special to ESPN.com

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah -- Al Horford suggests he's slowly but surely toiling his way to being NBA-ready.

"I feel that if I work hard," said Horford, who was selected No. 3 overall in last month's NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks, "I'm going to be able to help out."

After watching the former University of Florida big man play just two NBA summer-league games, Hawks assistant coach Larry Drew has no doubt about that.

In fact, Drew -- head coach of Atlanta's entry at the seven-team Rocky Mountain Revue -- seems to believe Horford is far beyond that for which the 21-year-old gives himself credit.

"He has really shown me that he is ready for this level," Drew said after Horford scored nine points off the bench on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and pulled down nine rebounds in Atlanta's 79-68 Revue win over San Antonio on Saturday night. "Not just from a physical standpoint, but his whole mental attitude toward this summer league, and just seeing how he handles and carries himself out on the floor.

"It just tells me that this kid is well-prepared," Drew added. "I know coming from a successful program has a lot to do with it, and I'd like to say that having a dad who has been in the NBA has something to do with it is also."

The 6-foot-10 Horford -- who along with Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah was one of three Gators who not only led Florida to back-to-back NCAA titles but also was a top-10 draft pick this year -- is the son of 7-1 former NBA center Tito Horford.

Though he logged just 60 games over two years for Milwaukee in the late 1980s and another three games for the Washington Bullets in the 1994-95 season, Tito Horford -- last seen waving a flag from the family's native Dominican Republic at the NBA Draft -- knows what the league is all about.

His advice, according to the son: "Just always remember what got me to this level is playing hard, and offensively taking good shots, and rebounding."

Al Horford has been doing all three in his first two Revue games.

Playing 32 minutes in a Friday loss to the Jazz, he shot 6-for-12, pulled down six boards and scored 18 points.

The numbers weren't so gaudy Saturday, but the showing sure was impressive -- including one play in which he raced to the sideline and saved a ball headed out-of-bounds by bouncing it off the back of one of the Spurs and into the third row of the spectator stands before crashing himself into the San Antonio bench.

Said Drew: "He's gonna play a lot of minutes."

Said Horford: "I'm working my way to that right now." Yet the former Gator insists he's not there yet.

"Obviously guys are really talented, very explosive," Horford said in comparing college to the summer league. "I think when guys make moves they're quicker with them. So [those are] things that I've got to adjust to. But overall I feel very comfortable."

WHO'S HOT: After hitting a ho-hum 5-of-14 from the field in his opening Revue game Friday, Atlanta big man Shelden Williams was on fire Saturday.

The No. 5 overall pick from the 2006 draft finished with a 23-point, 11-rebound double-double in 30 minutes against the Spurs and made a tidy 10-of-12 shots from the field.

"I thought he was a little bit more focused [Saturday]," Drew said of Williams, who led all NBA rookies in both rebounds per game (5.4) and double-doubles (eight) this past season. "He seemed to play a little bit more under control. Didn't look to force as many things. He took what the defense gave him. And that's how he has to play. He can't be one of those guys that's looking to always create for himself."

In the Revue's nightcap Saturday, 2007 first-round Jason Smith scored 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field to help lead Philadelphia past Revue-host Utah 100-85 -- quite a bounce back from a Friday effort in which the Colorado State product hit just 1-of-8 against San Antonio.

Whether it was with squared-up jumpers or dominating drives to the basket, Smith scored virtually at will against the Jazz.

The 76ers also got a 15-point, 15-rebound double-double from ex-Jazz forward Louis Amundson, who is averaging 16 points in two Revue games, and a game-high 20 points from French League swingman John Cox.

Meanwhile, Jazz rookie Morris Almond's team-high 13 points Saturday came on 5-of-8 shooting from the field. The first-round draft choice from Rice University has hit 50 percent -- 11-for-22 -- in his first two summer-league games.

WHO'S NOT: After shooting 2-of-7 on Saturday, Spurs 2007 second-round draft choice Marcus Williams -- the University of Arizona product -- is just 6-for-21 from the field in two Revue games.

Among the four Revue field teams that have played at least one game through Saturday, San Antonio is the only one that's winless, at 0-2.

NOTES

• Philadelphia general manager Billy King had a bit of scare after watching undrafted Amundson land on the lower leg of prized draft-night acquisition Smith. King, watching from a baseline table as Smith winced on the floor, signaled right away for a trainer. Smith, however, popped back up and resumed playing without missing any action.

• Jazz 2006 lottery pick Ronnie Brewer did not dress Saturday because of a sprained right ankle sustained Friday. He also missed multiple practices last week with an aggravated hamstring strain. The University of Arkansas product is listed as "day-to-day."

• By the time their Revue loss to Atlanta on Saturday was done, the Spurs were one hurting bunch.

Swingman James White, who appeared in six games as a rookie for San Antonio last season, was limited to 13 minutes because of a strained tendon in his foot. He is listed as "day-to-day." Free agent Marcellus Sommerville, who spent last season playing in Hungry and France, had his arm in a sling after getting elbowed by Williams and sustaining a left shoulder contusion. The forward from Bradley exited after hitting just 1-of-6 from the field in 12 minutes, and also is listed as "day-to-day."

Then there was swingman Viktor Sanikidze, who played fewer than 10 minutes against the Hawks because a sprained ankle. His Revue is done, but it's not because of the ankle. The 2004 second-round draft choice, who never has played in the NBA, was planning to return anyway after Saturday's game to his team in the Republic of Georgia.

• Utah's starting lineup against Philadelphia on Saturday included not one Millsap but two. In addition to roster-regular Paul Millsap, their backup power forward as a rookie last season, the Jazz's Revue team opened with older brother John Millsap at small forward. John, 24, was a CBA All-Star last season with Butte and the now-defunct Utah Eagles. The University of Texas-San Antonio product has also played in Serbia. Another Millsap brother, Elijah, plays at Louisiana-Lafayette, and a fourth, Abraham, plays for Brighton High School in Salt Lake City.

Paul Millsap's 12 points Saturday included 5-of-7 field shooting. John Millsap, making his Revue debut, shot 3-of-4 from the field and finished with seven points in 15 minutes.

• Veteran guard Eddie Gill played his first Revue game of the summer for the Jazz. Gill has played for Indiana, Portland, Memphis and New Jersey over five NBA seasons. The Weber State product, who is hoping for a return to the NBA, spent last season with Dynamo Moscow in Russia. He shot just 2-of-6 Saturday, but was impressive with his hustle and comfort level on the floor.

• No Revue games are scheduled Sunday. Play resumes with three games Monday.

Tim Buckley covers the Utah Jazz for the Deseret Morning News.