Green17 already covered this topic briefly in the Cheap Seats, but I thought Iâ€™d chime in and expand the thought.
The Al Jefferson Era is upon us.
Heâ€™s here, heâ€™s good, and heâ€™s only going to get better.
Are we jumping the gun on that? Couldnâ€™t he could fall back to earth, get hurt again, or even get traded? Letâ€™s take those one at a time. Maybe he could level off somewhat. Maybe he could be inconsistent, but heâ€™s proven what he can do when healthy and getting minutes. Heâ€™s gotten a taste of success and my guess is that heâ€™s going to hunger for it more and more. Yes, he could get hurt, but heâ€™ll heal up and come back again. Heâ€™ll play through pain if he has to, but heâ€™s learned his lesson about keeping in shape and taping his ankles. Heâ€™s no more or less an injury risk than anyone else in this league at this point. Finally, heâ€™s not getting traded anywhere. If the Celtics wouldnâ€™t trade him for a Hall of Famer still leading the league in scoring, who would they trade him for? I said a few weeks ago that Iâ€™d probably be willing to give him up for Gasol. Good thing Iâ€™m not the GM.
So Iâ€™m fine saying it. The media guides were about a year and one month early, but you can roll them out now. The days of Jefferson cutting his teeth are behind him. Heâ€™s a legit threat in this league right now. If teams havenâ€™t started gameplanning for him, shame on them and good for us. They will be soon enough, and I think Jefferson will be ready for them. Heâ€™s much better about passing out of double teams than he has been in past years, and heâ€™s creating contact with more regularity to get himself to the line. Thatâ€™s what good players do.
Heâ€™s also winning over his teammates. Tony Allen in particular is getting him the ball where he likes it on the post with regularity. So are Delonte and Wally. But most importantly, Paul Pierce trusts him. When Paul drives the lane and has 3 guys collapsing on him, heâ€™s not just looking to create contact for the foul anymore. Heâ€™s also looking to dish to Al who is finishing with authority.
Pierce benefits from Jeffersonâ€™s play as well. When the big guy is scoring in bunches on the block, not only does it lighten the burden on Pierce, but it opens things up for him on the perimeter and in the lanes. Iâ€™ve seen Pierce get more open looks and layups in the last few games than Iâ€™ve seen all year.
It isnâ€™t just on the offensive end where Jefferson is delivering either. Heâ€™s stepped up his defense remarkably. Where once you had ticky-tack fouls, you now see blocked shots. Heâ€™s beating his man to the spot and even came up with a key steal to seal the Bobcats win. When Perkins gets back, that low post defense is going to be a real strength for this team.
I hate to sound like every announcer and columnist, but it is true that Al would be just a junior in college right now. He would have dominated the college kids his first few years. Who knows, maybe his college coach would have taught him to tape his ankles and get into shape. Or maybe he would have followed the same maturity arch that many other players have taken. Heâ€™s still young enough to have plenty of progress ahead of him. Yet all the progress I need from him right now is to be more consistent. If he never averages better than 20 points and 10 rebounds but does so with consistency, that would be all I could ever ask of him. After what Iâ€™ve seen these last few weeks, I have a lot of confidence that he can do just that (and more).
Keep it up Big Al. Now we know what you can do. Now the league knows what you can do. Now you know what you can do. As Nike would say (like, â€¦5-10 years ago): Just do it.