Al Jefferson is the Real Deal

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Al Jefferson is the Real Deal

The colder the weather, the more rookie Al Jefferson seems to heat up on the court.

No one could have envisioned that scenario when Jefferson arrived for a predraft workout with the Celtics last spring. Failing to consider the difference in temperature between Boston and Prentiss, Miss., Jefferson arrived in a T-shirt and shorts, and promptly caught a cold. Sick and nervous, the high schooler dragged through his first NBA workout, barely able to catch a ball. He left coach Doc Rivers underwhelmed, wondering just what type of scouting operation the Celtics were running.

   "I will freely tell you I was completely wrong on Al," said Rivers. "I thought Al was going to be a great player and I know he will be now, but I didn't see it [happening] this year. I didn't think there was any chance Al would play this year. You didn't see his workout. It was horrible.

"When I got him in the summer, I started to think, 'Wow, he can really play.' Still, at that point, I was worried about him being on the active roster, then actually playing. He's just a comer and he has a great feel for the game."

Fast forward to last night's game between the Celtics and Knicks. In place of injured Raef LaFrentz, Jefferson earned the first start of his professional career. Rewarding the trust Rivers placed in him, Jefferson finished with 12 points and five rebounds. When asked if the proverbial light bulb had gone off as far as NBA play was concerned, Jefferson said, "It's dim." Offensively, Jefferson added that his shots are finally beginning to fall consistently. Now, all he has to master are the Celtics' defensive rotations.

"That's the main thing I've been working on lately," said Jefferson. "In high school I didn't have to do that."

Playing it safe

LaFrentz and Rivers took the better-safe-than-sorry approach last night, as the power forward was held out of the game. After suffering a mild left ankle sprain Tuesday night in Miami, LaFrentz could have faced the Knicks. But Boston does not play again until Sunday in San Antonio and Rivers figured a little extra rest would be best.

"We talked before and he could play, but he couldn't move very well," said Rivers.

With LaFrentz unavailable, Kendrick Perkins was the big beneficiary, as far as minutes were concerned.

Before last night, Perkins had played a career-high eight minutes in two games, the most recent a blowout in Sacramento Dec. 5. Before the second half even started, Perkins had already eclipsed that number. He ended the game with 25 minutes and 13 rebounds. All that held Perkins back from more playing time with LaFrentz healthy was the young player's spotty defense.

"Kendrick loves the offense and I think he could be our best defensive player, with his length and his size," said Rivers. "He could be an aircraft carrier, as far as his width. He could be big for us with his long arms. So, that's where I told him his minutes lie."

Comic relief

Executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge got a chuckle when reading Internet reports that he is shopping Ricky Davis and working to reacquire Antoine Walker. While Ainge will not comment on trade rumors, someone who looked a lot like him indicated there was no truth to either one . . . Revisiting the Category 2 flagrant foul called Tuesday night on Davis after he knocked Miami's Dwyane Wade to the floor in pursuit of a block, Rivers said, "That wasn't even close. I hate going back 10 years, but 10, 15, 20 years ago that would have been a foul and the guy would've shot two free throws." And what did the league think? Stu Jackson, chief of operations and the man in charge of meting out punishment, wrote in an e-mail: "The play was administered correctly on the floor and the flagrant foul penalty 2 and ejection call will stand. There will be no further penalty." . . . New York's Nazr Mohammed recorded a season-high 18 rebounds . . . Mark Blount had a team-high 22 points, and a bloodshot right eye for his efforts. Blount was scratched early in the first quarter. The medical staff numbed his eye so he could see, though the injury was clearly bothering him after the game . . . New York's Jamal Crawford injured his right big toe in the third quarter after Jiri Welsch stepped on his foot. The guard did not think it was broken, though he planned to have X-rays today.

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