Moving on Up: Minnesota's Al Jefferson is Back and Determined to be a Hit
There comes a time in everyone's life when they realize they know what they are going to be.
Al Jefferson is arguably the NBA's most skilled power forward, using quickness, drop steps, post moves, strength and agility to break down the opposition limb for limb in the same way a Samurai slices and dices.
At 6'10'', Jefferson is one of the NBA's young and upcoming All-Stars. Last season he averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds. 30 double doubles in 50 games, and was subjected to a torn ACL, which ended his season.
Now, seven months later, Jefferson is more determined than ever to put his history of injuries behind him.
"I'm pleasantly surprised that he's down here taking contact,'' Rambis, the Minnesota Timberwolves' new head coach said amid the thumps, whirs and heavy breathing of his own workout. "Once guys come in and start playing, you want to see if he favors that leg or runs around it. The sessions we've had have been more controlled. He could kind of judge where he's going. But when you're playing, you've got to react. You can't modulate what you're doing out there.''
Al Jefferson has stated that he is now 92 percent healthy and could be ready by training camp, although this Timberwolves writer does not think he will be ready until late October/early September.
"I think I'm more 92, 93 percent right now,'' Jefferson said, nudging his status from a self-proclaimed '90 percent' back in August. "I've got a ways to go as far as conditioning. But meanwhile, I don't see my knee stopping me or becoming a problem. My biggest thing right now is being in shape.''
"Of course the right leg is a little weaker than the other one,'' Jefferson said. "That's normal. The doctor said it would probably be this time next year before that knee would be 100 percent. But it should be no problem with my movement. I don't have no problem doing nothin' out there that I was doing before I got hurt.''
"I was excited to see where he was, especially since so much of his game is based on spins and quick movements. I haven't seen any hesitancy whatsoever,'' said Dave Wohl, Rambis' lead assistant and the former Celtics staffer who spent three summers honing Jefferson's game and work ethic. "He's so much more conscious now of what he has to do. He's dropped weight. He has such great footwork - he's so gifted - but the challenge for him now is to keep improving on the defensive end. He recognizes now that the work in the summer is very important to him. The guys who put the work in every summer, it's not hard to see why they improve.''
In my personal opinion, I think Jefferson is going to be even better than he was before. He has a chip on his shoulder and will probably end up like a big man version of Dwyane Wade. Coming off an injury, he'll lead his team with unbelievable numbers.
Of course, a lot of people don't know Jefferson. The fact that he puts up 20 points and 10 rebounds night in and night out is almost a regular thing for him. If you look at a guy like Samuel Dalembert, a 20 point and 10 rebound game would be an incredible game. For Jefferson, that's not the case.
- 36 Points, 22 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 4 Steals and 2 Blocks against the Houston Rockets. Damn Yao Ming!
- 34 Points, 11 Rebounds, 3 Blocks and 1 Assist against the Boston Celtics. Kevin Garnett vs. Al Jefferson? Love it.
- 34 Points, 13 Rebounds, 4 Blocks, 1 Assist and 1 Steal against the Los Angeles Lakers. Dwight Howard didn't do that, did he?
- 38 Points, 16 Rebounds and 1 Assist against the Memphis Grizzlies. First he did it to Pau Gasol, then to Marc Gasol. Haha.
- 28 Points, 17 Rebounds, 3 Assists and 1 steal against the Phoenix Suns. Shaq Diesel ran out of fuel.
Those are just a few standout games. There were a lot of 20 point, 11 rebound games, which is about his average.
Jefferson has taken a liking to new head coach Bill Laimbeer, who was the center for the Detroit Pistons in the "bad boys" era.
"I'm looking for Bill to bring that nasty side out of me, that tough side, especially on defense,'' Jefferson said. "He can really bring us to that next level on defense, being that tough guy, that leader.''
He's also taken a liking to head coach Kurt Rambis.
"When I found out that Kurt got the job, it was amazing to me,'' he said. "Just for the simple fact that [the Lakers] just won the championship, he's head assistant, two or three years max he was going to have the head coaching job. He left that? To come here? I can roll with a guy like that. I'll go down fighting for a guy like that every night. I know he's not coming here to b.s., he's coming here to win. He won me over right there.''
The last two quotes were huge for me. With Randy Foye and Mike Miller gone, Jefferson will get a few more looks and could end up averaging 25 points, which would be absolutely fantastic. It seems that averaging 25 points would almost guarantee an All-Star spot.
I also think that with all of the tips Kevin Love gets, Jefferson and Love will be impossible to rebound over. Your talking about a guy who was second in offensive rebounds in 25 MPG, and a guy who averaged 11 rebounds during the regular season. Based on last season, they should average 20 rebounds together. But realistically, it'll be more like 25.
Al Jefferson was snubbed from the All-Star game last season. Now, after David Kahn's talked about him not being a franchise player, not making the playoff's, not playing defense and not being an All-Star, he could average 25 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, which would be a great improvement coming off an injury.
With Sasha Pavlovic, Wayne Ellington and Ryan Gomes around him, he now has three shooters to dish out too, which will space the floor for him.
My prediction for Jefferson: 25 Points, 12 Rebounds, 2 Blocks and 2 assists.
Jefferson's prediction for Jefferson: 28 Points, 13 Rebounds, 3 Blocks and 3 Assists. That would be phenomenal, but I'd settle for my prediction.
Thanks for reading!
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