Big Al Better than Oden?

April 4, 2007

Al Jefferson finally acknowledged yesterday that next season is more important than the rest of this season, and in that regard the Celtics may have caught a break with a bruise.

Jefferson may well be forced to sit out tonight's game in Milwaukee after aggravating a left knee he originally hurt March 21.

``I banged it against Charlotte about a week and a half ago and it's been mad sore,'' Jefferson said of the knee, on which he wore a large wrap as he sat out the second half of practice. ``I kept playing on it and I bumped it today against Ryan (Gomes). I'm just taking it day to day.''

When asked if he'll play against the Bucks, he said, ``I seriously doubt it, but I'm going to travel with the team and plan as if I'm playing. But if it's too sore I'm just going to let it heal and let it rest.''

With just two weeks left in the season, expect Jefferson and the Celts to be very cautious.

``You've got to think about stuff like that, but also I want to play and get better and take advantage of these games,'' he said. ``But I don't want to go out there hurt and risk making it worse. There's a lot of things to look at, but next year is more important than anything right now.''

That's a bit of a change in stance for Jefferson, who laughed when it was suggested recently that his strong play could be killing the club's chances to get Greg Oden in the NBA draft.

``Oh, well,'' he replied. ``I got nothing to do with that, brother. They're paying me to go out here and do a job, and I'm doing it.''

Paul Pierce got the humor, but added, ``Hey, he's better than any college player right now anyway, so I'll take it.''

Having slipped a while ago from the worst record in the league, the Celtics will have to get even luckier to land the biggest prizes. But what if it worked out? Oden and Jefferson together?

``That might make me a smart coach,'' coach Doc Rivers said.

Jefferson was among those most pleased when Rivers told the team to forget about the pick.

``I've felt like that from Day 1,'' he said. ``I ain't worried about no (expletive) draft pick. I like this team the way it is. If you think about it, if we wouldn't have had all the injuries, I think we'd be in the playoff run right now for real.''

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