Questions remain on how the Hawks will handle the loss of Al Horford. With the two-time All-Star lost for three to four months with a torn pectoral muscle leadership must answer:

-- Who will fill Horford's role and minutes?

-- Will the Hawks make a roster move?

-- Can the coaching staff keep the team on track for a fifth consecutive playoff appearance, the loss compounded by a compacted NBA schedule?

The Hawks learned of the severity of Horford's injury hours before Thursday's home game against the Bobcats, a blow Josh Smith termed "devastating." Joe Johnson and Smith will be counted on to pick up much of the loss of Horford, on and off the court.

Horford, fourth on the team in minutes, averaged 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and a .553 field-goal percentage (eighth in the NBA) in the first 11 games. He has played both center and power forward, his natural position, in his five years with the Hawks.

As a center, he has the rare ability to grab rebounds and start the fast break, a clear advantage against the more stationary big men in the league. In Wednesday's game against the Pacers, before the injury, he started a break that Smith, playing power forward, finished with a basket. Not many players in those positions can match that versatility.