Big Al Stuck in Idle

October 19, 2005

Al Jefferson averaged a shade less than 15 minutes a game last season. Although that might not seem like much, the player known as "Big Al" would kill for 15 minutes a game right now. It'd be 15 minutes more than he's played to date.

   The one indisputable downer of Celtics training camp has been the left ankle sprain suffered by Jefferson, who many figured was destined for the starting lineup and a lot of other good things in his second season. That may well happen. It's just not happening now or, in all likelihood, for the remainder of camp.

        Jefferson has not practiced since the first day of camp, which was 15 days ago. Given this week's schedule (three exhibition games in four days), he probably won't even be able to try his ankle until Sunday. Yesterday, he had it encased in an automatic cooling device (as opposed to mere ice) and talked about how disappointed he is that things have gone this way.

   "I'm really disappointed," he said. "I got hurt on the first day of training camp. This is supposed to be a big year for me and I'm hurt. So I'm really disappointed."

   Coach Doc Rivers , answering what has become the Daily Jefferson Query, said yesterday, "With Al out, it mucks things up a little bit."

   And when will the second-year power forward be ready to practice? While Jefferson hinted at Sunday, Rivers said, "I think Al will tell us. It won't be me. Wherever his play takes him. He has talent. We know that. But he has to do it. Missing games has to hurt him."

   And as for a possible berth in the starting lineup? "He has to earn that," Rivers said. "It's for whoever wants it. Everyone except Paul [ Pierce ] and Ricky [ Davis ], who have earned it, are in the same boat."

   Jefferson said the ankle is still sore, more than two weeks after the initial sprain. He said he has done some post drills, but "I can't run up and down. It's a slow process. I've go to be cautious on my cuts and turns."

   No one anticipated this. After Jefferson's promising finish to last year, Celtics fans had him penciled in as a certifiable, one-man wrecking crew at the 4-spot. Terms like "All-Star" were being tossed around.

   Rivers himself, in a chat last May, said, "For Al, it's not a question of if he becomes a star. It's when. I know that's putting a lot of pressure on him, and he only may improve a little next year. If we're expecting him to dominate next year, we're fooling ourselves. But having said that, if he does? I won't be surprised."

   The only thing Jefferson might be able to dominate now is the Tour de France. He has out-Lanced Lance on the exercise bicycle in addition to doing work in the pool and being whipped into cardiovascular shape by the strength and conditioning coaches.

   "I'm trying to stay in the best shape I can," he said. "Before I got hurt, I was in pretty good shape.

   Before I got hurt. It was only a fortnight ago, but in terms of missed opportunities, it is everything.

   As Rivers left the practice court yesterday, Jefferson had his left foot in the cooling bag and his right foot propped up on a table. "My father had an expression for that," Rivers said. "Easy Street. You sit like that, you must be on Easy Street."

   That is where many thought Jefferson was heading. He may get there. But it won't be easy.

Dress you up

   Some of the Celtics were asked yesterday about the new NBA dress code, specifics of which were announced Monday. Said Pierce, "You knew it was coming. I have a couple of suits in the closet I can dust off." Pierce said he had no problem with the new directive. "Those are the rules," he shrugged. He said he would not deliberately incur a fine by wearing something else. "No donations," he said. Marcus Banks , a big fan of replica jerseys, will have to buy a new wardrobe . . . Will Bynum was back at practice a day after being sick. Rivers said Bynum and Orien Greene are in competition for the No. 3 point guard spot behind Dan Dickau and Delonte West . If Greene does not win that battle, it will be a shocker . . . West, meanwhile, appears to have the edge in the point guard competition, mainly, Rivers said, because of defense. Asked if he expected to start this year, West said, "My expectation was to start last year, even with Gary [ Payton ] here. That's the mentality you have to have no matter who is here."

Forgetting someone?

   Bulletin board material: New Knicks coach Larry Brown was asked Monday to assess the Eastern Conference, and here's what he said: "Certainly, Detroit, Miami, and Indiana are teams that you'd talk about right away, but there are a lot of good young teams in Orlando, Chicago, and obviously New Jersey, with three of the best perimeter players in the league. There's also Philly with Allen [ Iverson ] and when [ Chris ] Webber gets healthy, and I think their young people are very underrated. So, the depth in the East is much better than it has been in years, as far as I'm concerned." The Knicks and Celtics play here on opening night in two weeks.

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