Ever since he was traded for Kevin Garnett, I have “secretly” been following the career path of Al Jefferson. After some growing in Minnesota, and then a stat-padding stop in Utah, Jefferson has found something in Charlotte beyond his dominance on the right block. Big Al has become a leader of this young, intriguing team that Michael Jordan has helped put together. They aren’t going to to make a big impact in this season’s playoffs, but there are definitely pieces on the roster that create a solid core to work with in the coming years.
When Jefferson was signed this offseason, it was expected that he would have a positive impact on the offensive side of the ball for one of the worst-scoring teams of the 2013 NBA season. There was little talk however of how his veteran presence would help a team that features four players still on their rookie contracts. It seems that this Bobcats team loves playing together, and Jefferson, along with standout combo-guard Kemba Walker, are changing the culture of a basketball team that is on ESPN less than professional bowling. A lot of the credit has to go to head coach Steve Clifford for turning this team into one of the better defensive teams in the league, not a surprise to those who have followed Clifford’s coaching career.
The Boston Celtics are in a position similar to where they were when they traded Jefferson. They have one star who finds himself in constant trade rumors (Rajon Rondo), and a team with some mediocre players and young assets that certainly have futures in the NBA. However, let me be clear in saying there will never be another Ryan Gomes. The tank job that the C’s are doing is much more convincing than their tanking efforts in 2007. We also remember that they missed out on a top 2 draft pick (Greg Oden or Kevin Durant), and ended up drafting Jeff Green and then trading him for Ray Allen. The blueprint is there for the C’s to become relevant again in a pathetic Eastern Conference, and they get a reminder of how they did it when Jefferson comes into Boston tonight in a big game that should go directly into the tank bank.
Prediction: Bobcats 95, Celtics 90