SALT LAKE CITY Its been nearly four years since Al Jefferson was shipped to Minnesota as the centerpiece of the deal that landed Boston Kevin Garnett.
But when news broke last week that his old friend and teammate Kendrick Perkins had joined him on the list of former Celtics, Jefferson was just as shocked and confused as anyone.
I was like Wow, Jefferson, now with the Jazz, said before Monday nights game with Boston. I thought I was dreaming.
He said he hasnt spoken to Perkins yet, but will reach out to him once things calm down and Perk gets situated, but he was more than willing to talk about how he thinks the trade will affect the Celtics.
You can count him among the masses who question the move.
On the outside looking in, people always said Kevin was the face of that defense, Jefferson said. But when youre playing against them, Perk was the face of that defense. Perk was the goaltender. Perk was the one who made people afraid to go to that basket. You know, Im a scorer in this league, and I hated playing against him."
Although, for all they lost with Perk, Jefferson isnt completely sour on the deal. Hes actually pretty familiar with Nenad Krstic theyve faced off 16 times in their respective careers and considers him a formidable opponent.
Krstic is a great offensive player," said Jefferson, whos averaging 17.8 points and 9.1 rebounds a game for Utah. He's not up there with Perk on the defensive end, but hes a good defensive player. With him along with Kevin and everybody else, when Jermaine O'Neal gets back healthy and Shaq, theyre still going to be deep at the big spot. And also, guys cant lay off on Krstic like they did Perk because he can hit that jumper. He can score that ball, too.
Still, regardless of Krstics strengths, Jefferson doesnt think any can match what Perk provided for Boston.
They got something back good in return for Perk," said Jefferson, "but just as far as that team and how they were set up, Perk was just perfect.
That was Al Jefferson before the game. Relaxed, cordial, easygoing.
Once the real action started, the former Celtic looked every bit the monster that Celtics fans imagined hed some day become, putting up an impressive 28 points and 19 rebounds in Bostons five-point win.
Als developed into a hell of a player, man, said Paul Pierce. Offensively, the way hes rebounding, rounding out his game. Pretty soon were going to see him in a lot of All-Star games.
But on Monday, unfortunately for Jefferson and the Jazz, he did most of his damage in the first half when he scored 18 of his 29 and was eventually flustered by the Celtics adjustments.
We trapped him on the first time in the second half, on the first catch, and then we just mixed it up. We just wanted him to think, said Doc Rivers. We allowed him to catch it too deep in the first half. I didnt think we did the work early with our bigs. In the second half we denied the passes, and they had to use up clock to get it into him.
Jefferson scored only six points in the fourth quarter, as his team came up short down the stretch. But still, his coach was more than happy with the effort, and with the direction Jefferson continues to climb.
Tremendous effort, said Tyrone Corbin. Hes been, in the last couple weeks, hes really be focusing in on where to get the ball, where to get his shots, and putting pressure on guys to stop him at the basket. Hes doing a good job rebounding. Hes really focusing on defense . . . hes getting a lot better.