Not sitting well
Jefferson's season may be finished
Nagging injuries have made this season a frustrating campaign for Al Jefferson. (File Photo / The Boston Globe)
On the same day that 5,000 fans were given ''limited edition" Al Jefferson bobblehead dolls, the player the Celtics call ''Big Al" learned his season likely came up short. As in finished.
Jefferson's sore right ankle bothered him yesterday, 24 hours after a workout, and he missed his ninth consecutive game and 18th overall. ''It's more frustrating than anything," a clearly chagrined Jefferson said before the Celtics' 101-86 loss to the Knicks at TD Banknorth Garden.
''I don't even know right now. I want to play. I want to get in a few games before the end of the season. But if they decide to shut it down, even if that's the case, I don't want to think about it. But if you can't go, you can't go."
Coach Doc Rivers said that while nothing has been decided, it was his belief that Jefferson would be best served by not participating in the Celtics' final five games, the next being Wednesday night in Indiana. Rivers talked to basketball boss Danny Ainge yesterday morning about shutting down Jefferson and, according to Rivers, Ainge gave his coach the green light to do what he thought was best.
''I don't see the value," Rivers said. ''If he did play, he's in terrible shape and that could lead to more injuries. He wants to play. But at some point, I'm going to step in on this one . . . [Jefferson] didn't fight me on it. I just don't see why we should take the chance."
This clearly was not the kind of year the Celtics expected from Jefferson. Last May, after the Celtics had been eliminated by the Pacers in the playoffs, Rivers said he expected big things from Jefferson this season. But Jefferson hurt his ankle in training camp, and then again in February.
''It wasn't a great year [for him]," Rivers said. ''We were counting on [a strong year] and it didn't come out that way. But he learned a lot of lessons. I think he understands that if you want to be great, it's going to take a lot of hard work -- and not just the required work. The great ones do the unrequired work."
Rivers said Jefferson came to training camp ''in average shape" and then missed most of it with his first ankle sprain. The current injury is a bone bruise, Jefferson said, not a conventional ankle sprain. But it's clearly a residual effect from his injury Feb. 3 against the Clippers, from which he never really recovered. He missed the next nine games, then returned March 3 against Indiana. But after 12 more games, he was sent to the sideline again.
''If they want me to sit out the rest of the year, I have to respect that. The future is more important," said Jefferson, whose last game consisted of a 10-minute, 2-point cameo against the Lakers March 20.
His season averages: 7.9 points, 5.1 rebounds in 18 minutes per game.
''I know it's frustrating for him," Paul Pierce said of Jefferson. ''The few games I've sat out in my career have been frustrating."
Pierce has not missed a game this season (he and Raef LaFrentz are the only Celtics on pace to play in all 82) and has missed only 16 in his NBA career, or two fewer than Jefferson missed this season.