Jefferson Sees Action in Return

October 22, 2005

TORONTO - It wasn't exactly a triumphant return to action, but Al Jefferson got just what he needed in his first exhibition game during the Raptors' 93-83 victory over the Celtics last night at the Air Canada Centre. In his return from a sprained left ankle suffered Oct. 4, Jefferson was the first player off the bench and finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes 22 seconds. More importantly, he moved well and played without pain, despite twisting the ankle in the second quarter.

Besides struggling with his timing, Jefferson found his biggest challenge adjusting to heavy tape on both ankles. But he really had no choice. Executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge half-jokingly threatened to fine Jefferson $1,000 if he played without his ankles taped.

    "I don't give up money that easily," said Jefferson. "But it makes me feel like my ankle has a cast on it. I'm not used to tape being on my ankle, but there wasn't any pain. It didn't stop me.

"Balls were just slipping out of my hand. I was missing balls I would normally catch. I was missing jump hooks that I normally make. That's just the flow of the game, I guess, right now. It's my first game of the preseason, so hopefully, [tonight's] game [against New Jersey] and two more hard practices and by Tuesday I'll be right back in my rhythm. Doc [ Rivers ] left me out there so I could go and make my mistakes now."

In addition to heavy tape, Jefferson also wears braces on both ankles and ices his knees after games. When he returns to form, he will provide a major boost to the Celtics at both ends.

Despite the loss, which dropped Boston to 1-4 in exhibition games, Rivers sounded optimistic. He got strong contributions from starters Mark Blount (11 points), Raef LaFrentz (17 points, 6 rebounds), Delonte West (7 points, 5, rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals), and Paul Pierce (9 points, 7 assists).

"As crazy as it sounds, [last night's game] was the first that actually I could see the light," said Rivers, whose team logged another high turnover rate (22 for 18 points). "I saw some things I really liked about our team. I actually saw some combinations that I really liked. When Ricky Davis got in foul trouble it kind of hurt the plans I had for tonight, but I'm getting a good feel for this team."

Work after class

Kendrick Perkins , Orien Greene , Gerald Green , Ryan Gomes , Will Bynum, and Jefferson stayed 40 minutes after shootaround and continued to work with assistants Dave Wohl and Kevin Eastman . The extra session had two purposes: get the younger players more familiar with what the coaches want to run and give Jefferson extra time practicing plays . . . The Raptors were without the pride of Concord, N.H., Matt Bonner , who did not dress because of a right calf strain . . . Former Celtic Eric Williams did not play because of a sore left knee, but he hopes his future plans include Boston. "I ain't looking to retire yet, but when I do, I would love to retire as a Celtic." . . . Greene appeared recovered from the back spasms that plagued him against Chicago Wednesday.

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