Jefferson Pain Free
October 21, 2005
With Al Jefferson finally back practicing yesterday and planning to play tonight against Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, it was hard to tell who was happier Jefferson or Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
After a two-hour workout, Jefferson sat courtside at the team's training facility, tired but without pain in the sprained left ankle that forced him to miss 15 days of preseason action. Jefferson struggled with his shot, basic skills, and conditioning, but figures to be back in proper form after a couple of more lengthy practices, a couple of games, and some individual workouts. So, Jefferson should be ready for the start of the regular season in 12 days.
"It was good to get back out on the court," said Jefferson. "I was kind of rusty. The jump hook wouldn't fall in at first. But I got it to move and it started going good. I was running the floor well. I had a little conditioning problem, but that's normal . . . I didn't think I was going to do this well running, so I surprised myself . . . I couldn't catch the ball that good, a little rusty like I was last year when I twisted it [in January]. As the practice went on, I started getting into my moves. [My teammates] know what I can do. First day of training camp until now is a long time [away from the game]."
Jefferson also seemed surprised he did not feel pain in his left ankle throughout practice. The injured area was heavily taped, and supported by a brace and a high-top sneaker.
Before Jefferson sprained his ankle, he was expected to compete for the starting job at power forward. But for the time being, Rivers seems pleased with a starting lineup that includes a frontcourt of Raef LaFrentz, Mark Blount, and Paul Pierce. Jefferson will make his exhibition debut with the second unit, bringing much-needed scoring off the bench. As a rookie, Jefferson came into his own during the second half of last season. He averaged 6.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game off the bench.
Rivers expects to use his regular-season rotation in exhibition games, though tonight in Toronto will not be a test run. The second preseason contest against New Jersey (Tuesday) may be when the first and second units take a more permanent form. Rivers appears to have settled on Delonte West as the starting point guard, though he would not say it. He also wants to see more of Orien Greene, who went through most of practice yesterday, though he was still bothered by a stiff back.
"Right now, Delonte, I think, will be the guy," said Rivers. "Honestly, he could start the rest of training camp and I could start someone else [during the regular season]. I like that Delonte starts with a defensive presence. That stands out to me."
Rivers mentioned he still goes back and forth with executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge on sending rookie Gerald Green to the developmental league for some playing time.
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