Jefferson: 'It's always good to come back'

Jefferson: 'It's always good to come back'

BOSTON -- On March 28, 2007, the Boston Celtics beat the Orlando Magic in double overtime at TD Garden for the 22nd victory of their 24-win season. Captain Paul Pierce led the team with 32 points, seven rebounds, and five assists while up-and-coming big man Al Jefferson posted a double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Rookie Rajon Rondo added six points, five rebounds, and five assists.

Fast forward to March 28, 2012.

The Celtics beat the Utah Jazz, 94-82, in regulation on the parquet. Captain Paul Pierce scored 20 points and six rebounds while the now-All Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, dished 14 assists along with six points and four rebounds. On the opposing end, Jefferson, currently in his eighth season and third NBA team, posted a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

The trio were the only members from the 2007 Celtics squad on the court together five years later.

As Jefferson made his return to Boston, he still found a sense of familiarity in the place he called home for the first three seasons of his career.

It seems like many years ago, many, many years ago, but its only been, what, five, six years ago, he said after the game. Every time I come back, its always good to come back and play on this court.

Jefferson was the centerpiece of the multi-player deal which sent Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Celtics in the summer of 2007. The Cs went on to win a title that season. Jefferson, on the other hand, spent three seasons on losing Timberwolves teams before being traded to the Jazz in 2010.

On Wednesday night, Jefferson and Garnett were called for double technical fouls against one another. But there are no feelings of bitterness on Jeffersons end. Double techs or not, he respects the future Hall of Famer he was sent to Minnesota for.

That was Kevin being Kevin, Jefferson said. Hes been here long enough to know how he operates. Its just him. But I got mad respect for Kevin, great player. He made a way for me, being drafted out of high school, thats all I have to say about that.

He continued about the trade, It was an honor. Thats something Ill tell my grandkids one day, that I got traded for one of the best players to ever play the game. Thats the way I look at that.

Jefferson was not only impacted by the player he was traded for, but also the ones still in Boston. Entering the NBA as a teenager following his senior year of high school, Jefferson tried to soak up everything he could learn from Pierce. The veteran leader of a young squad, Pierce pulled off moves his teammates would need years to perfect.

Playing with Paul Pierce was an honor because I watched him growing up, said Jefferson. I always thought he had -- Joe Johnson had that same kind of game. He doesnt move up or speed up for anybody. Paul plays his pace.

Everybody always asks me, Whered you get that ball fake from? I got it from Paul Pierce. I used to always watch how he set up that ball fake and thats where I stole it from him. So it was always an honor playing with him.

In addition to Pierces proven experience, Jefferson also saw something in the Celtics young point guard. He played just one season with Rondo, but it was enough time for Jefferson to realize Rondo would make a name for himself.

Rondo, when he was a rookie, you saw it, he said. You knew that he was going to be something special, just like I did in Kevin Love. Now, seeing him do what he has done, I guess Im not really surprised by it because I saw it. He was in a great opportunity and he turned out to be a very, very, very special player. Im glad I had a chance to experience that and have that little time with him.

Jefferson crosses paths with his former teammates who have since left the Celtics as he travels throughout the league. And regardless of how many of them are still playing in Boston, returning to the city where he started his NBA career makes him appreciate his place in the NBA.

Everybody is pretty much gone except for Paul, Rondo, and (head coach) Doc (Rivers), he said. But thats how it goes. It seems like every time I play a game, I see somebody I used to play with. But at the end of the day, its a blessing to still be in this league. It might not be with the same team, but at least youre still in the league.

Kusnierek: Lack of NFL discipline on Josh Brown disgraceful

Kusnierek: Lack of NFL discipline on Josh Brown disgraceful

Trenni Kusnierek is outraged, and rightfully so, by the actions - or lack thereof - by the NFL regarding domestic violence by Giants kicker Josh Brown.

Tom E. Curran details the NFL's botched investigation here.


Haggerty: Early returns good for Bruins, but still plenty to prove

Haggerty: Early returns good for Bruins, but still plenty to prove

BOSTON – There’s little question that the Bruins are, at least partially, hanging 10 on a giant World Cup of Hockey wave right now.

Zdeno Chara is playing much tighter and stronger hockey than he did a year ago at this time and some of that is probably carryover from his Team Europe stint as well as enjoying the benefits of impressive rookie Brandon Carlo as his defensive partner.

Tuukka Rask has played very well in two of his three games thus far after starring for Team Finland and is 3-0-0 with a .947 save percentage in a stunning turnaround from the embattled goaltender under siege a year ago. Rask is also doing all of this while very clearly dealing with some kind of lower body issue, or as he called it, “something” that’s causing him discomfort when he extends for certain saves in the butterfly position. Brad Marchand shares the NHL scoring lead with nine points (three goals, six assists) in four games, and has been carrying the B’s offense in the early going every time they require an important shift to get the team going.

David Pastrnak has a four-game point streak to start the season after his time playing for the Czech Republic and has four goals in those four games while generating a team-leading 18 shots on net and blossoming into an offensive star at 20 years old. David Backes has two goals and a plus-7 in four games, and was a shooting (team-high six shots on net) and hitting (team-high seven hits) machine in his first home game as a member of the Bruins.

Even Patrice Bergeron got into the act on Thursday night with the winning goal after missing the first three games of the season with a lower body injury that may, or may not, have been caused by the wear and tear of starring in the high-intensity World Cup tournament during the preseason.

That doesn’t even count the impressive contributions of young players Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen, or new faces Dominic Moore, Riley Nash and Tim Schaller, who have contributed right out of the starting gate as mere hockey mortals that had to endure the full NHL training camp.

So, with all that going for them it was the proper way to start the season on the TD Garden ice with a win after so many home-game stinkbombs thrown last season and that’s exactly what they did coming-from-behind in a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.

“I think that we are all disappointed with our record here last year and it was important to get off to a good start,” said Claude Julien. “You know you want the fans to come and watch. Well, you have to give them a reason to do that and you’ve got to pay the price and play some exciting hockey and show that you are competing hard. This is a fan base that loves players to compete hard and get their nose to the grind and that’s what we needed to do tonight.”

With nearly all of the B’s key players off to strong starts, it’s really no wonder the Bruins are off to a 3-1 start in contrast with the Black and Gold dumpster fire of a three-game homestand to open last season. It’s plain to see there’s a much better feeling around this group and that’s been obvious from the first moments of the preseason.

“I think we’re growing as a team, but I think right off the bat when everybody showed up, we looked like we were ready to go and everybody seemed to have that right mindset,” said Rask. “So, that’s a good thing to have. I think guys should show up to work and we get a game plan and we go out there and execute it and it pays off. It’s a clich√© but that’s how it isand now we have the guys to do it.”

More important, they showed it on Thursday night while leaving the home fans happy after bitterly disappointing everybody on home ice so many times last season. There was no big-game anxiety or home jitters in the opener. Instead, it was a solid, focused effort against a Devils team that was going to make them earn everything they received.

“It’s good to get that one at home, especially your home opener. Feeling good about yourselves and get the fans excited. We don’t always want to play from behind,” said Marchand, who scored the tying goal in the third period on a sensational individual play and shot through the legs of Jersey D-man Andy Greene. “But coming from behind tonight and getting the win, it just shows that the guys have a lot of character this year. We’re going to bear down when things aren’t going well.”

It’s impossible to argue Marchand’s point because there’s been only one stinker in the first four games and there are plenty of things happening on Causeway Street that should inspire encouragement.

There are also still Bruins things to be worked on, of course.

The second and third lines still aren’t kicking in offensively like they need to, even if David Krejci looked much more like himself with Backes on his right side on Thursday night. The Bruins are 1-for-14 on the power play to start the season and really looked lost on the man-advantage without No. 37 around. The Bruins have allowed their opponents to score the first goal in each of the four games and that's the kind of over-the-top largesse that prevents sustained success if it’s not addressed.

More than anything, it’s about the competition. The Bruins have played four teams that didn’t qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs last season and Boston has taken care of business in three of those four games. Granted, three of those games were also played with the B’s missing their best player in Bergeron, but the point stands that the Bruins still haven’t been tested by anything approaching the top players in the league.

Maybe, just maybe, the Bruins are exhibiting encouraging signs that they’re going to be better than the unfortunate editions that collapsed the past two seasons while failing to make the playoffs. Certainly it looks like this year’s group plays with a more exciting, emotional and inspired brand of hockey, buoyed by enthusiastic young players and core veterans riding the momentum after their World Cup experiences.

That might just be the magic formula to get the Black and Gold off to the strong start they absolutely needed with so much stuff swirling around them after two disappointing seasons.

Six of their next seven opponents are playoff teams from last season. That should show just how improved the B’s truly are at this early point, with the only exception being the new-look Canadiens, who should recharge the rivalry atmosphere with Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw now in the Montreal mix.

Once the dust has settled on the next few weeks, we’ll know a lot more about these Bruins, but the straight truth is this: The B’s buzz has been good thus far with only the early precincts reporting in this arduous, 82-game election cycle.