Hawks' Al Horford changes gloomy playoff prognosis after meeting with doctor

Hours after Atlanta Hawks forward-center Al Horford expressed doubt he'd be ready for the playoffs due to injury, a doctor convinced Horford he could play in a limited fashion in Thursday's regular-season finale against the Dallas Mavericks.

Horford was expected to be out three to four months after undergoing surgery Jan. 11 for a torn left pectoral muscle. The two-time All-Star told Yahoo! Sports after practice Monday morning he didn't feel it was "realistic that I can play for the playoffs." But after meeting later with his surgeon, Dr. Xavier Duralde of Atlanta, he felt confident with a return Thursday, starting with "about 15 minutes" per game.

"You got to look for the people that have your best interest," Horford told Yahoo! Sports. "This is the guy that performed my surgery. He gave me the OK. I'm feeling pretty good about it now. He just said, 'You're going to be limited. That's all. You can go out there and play limited time.' That's kind of why I'm back in there."

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On Sunday, the 6-foot-10, 246-pounder told the Atlanta Journal Constitution there was a "70 percent chance" of a playoff return. He told Yahoo! Sports on Monday morning that he was done for the season, mentioning concerns about the weakness of his back and shoulder area that would limit his rebounding and defense. Horford said Duralde told him in the afternoon meeting to expect weakness in his left pectoral but he could play and will regain full strength in the offseason.

The Hawks have won seven of 10 games this month and will open the playoffs against the Boston Celtics as the Eastern Conference's fifth seed. Horford was averaging 12.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in 11 games this season prior to the injury.

"It remains to be seen what I can bring," Horford said. "But I hope to bring some scoring. They can't expect a lot from me defensively because it's been a while since I've even played. That's one of the things that will hold me back, but scoring I can help. And also with presence with the team in general.

"We've been together for a few years. It will be nice to be back with the guys."

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Horford also said he expects to play for his native Dominican Republic at the FIBA World Olympic qualifying tournament from July 2-8 in Venezuela.

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