The other side of the story
Jefferson ready to carry load for rebuilding Wolves
Posted: Wednesday August 8, 2007 5:34PM; Updated: Thursday August 9, 2007 7:21AM
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ricky Davis remembers Al Jefferson as a rookie, a teenager, a kid in 2004 who was considered the future of the Boston Celtics long before he did anything to earn that status. It was a status that Davis, on his fourth team soon headed to his fifth, never has known, certainly never has been handed.
Mark Blount might recall Jefferson as the high school guy whose minutes, spotty as they were, were going to come at his expense. That wasn't so bad perhaps, since Blount already had snookered the Celtics for his $38.5 million extension and could pace himself across the next six years as he saw fit. But Jefferson also was the one who, in the days after Davis and Blount got traded to Minnesota in January 2006, did or didn't say (Big Al still disputes the quotes in the Boston newspapers): ``Like Doc said [to us], the trade will clear out a lot of negative stuff in the locker room without Mark Blount and Marcus Banks, who didn't really want to be here.''
It is a different Al Jefferson who joins the Minnesota Timberwolves now. He's older, more established and more clearly the cornerstone of whatever the Wolves can put together in their rebuilding plan than he was in Boston. So however uneasy the reunion gets for Davis and Blount, however tempted they might be to pull what little locker-room rank they think they have as veterans who knew Jefferson when, they need to get over it right now.
Al Jefferson figures to be around a lot longer than Davis or Blount, whether the duration is measured in seasons or months.
"Nah, Rick always passed me the ball,'' Jefferson said at this week's news conference introducing the players acquired from Boston in the Wolves' sad but inevitable, blockbuster trade of Kevin Garnett. All five of them -- Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair -- sat shoulder-to-shoulder at the head table, and it's a good thing the two future first-round draft picks weren't represented by symbolic space, because owner Glen Taylor would have gotten bumped off the stage.
Minnesota has quantity, no doubt, with 16 guaranteed contracts two months before training camp opens. Quality? That will depend on Jefferson more than any of the others, and how quickly this becomes, in the best sense, his team.
"Rick was one of the greatest teammates that you could have, especially off the court," the 22-year-old power forward said. "When I was a rookie, he gave me the ball even when a lot of other guys didn't. I can't wait to show him how good I, uh, improved."
Of Blount, Jefferson said: "Me and Mark had a good relationship. He was the one I would always talk to. . . . We're good."
But they're different now, too. And in case Davis and Blount don't quite get how Jefferson has grown, they should take a look at some random posts from CelticsBlog.com about what Minnesota calls the Garnett trade:
Jefferson already is the best low-post scorer the Wolves ever have employed. For all of Garnett's talents, he wasn't even second; Isaiah Rider was. Gomes, a fellow former Celtic, calls him one of the five or six best in the league, right now. Minnesota coach Randy Wittman likens him to the Clippers' Elton Brand, a few years back on the learning curve.