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.