The Celtics' definition of ``minor" differs slightly from those found in the dictionary. ``Minor" typically refers to something small in amount, extent, or size, lesser in seriousness or importance. For the Celtics, ``minor" apparently refers to something they don't want drawing a lot of attention or scrutiny.
On Aug. 3, the Celtics announced that Al Jefferson had undergone ``minor arthroscopic surgery" on his right ankle a day earlier. Late last week, Jefferson reported that he had bone chips removed and he now spends most of his days lounging around watching music videos, with his right leg elevated. The Celtics medical staff treats the ankle with ice and massage.
``I've got two choices," said Jefferson, who is walking around on crutches. ``I can lay around on my bed or I can lay around on my couch. So I rotate."
To stay in shape, Jefferson has been riding a stationary bike with one leg and lifting weight with his upper body. (Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge was quick to note the stationary bike comes with arm levers that can provide a vigorous cardiovascular workout.) After having stitches removed, Jefferson hopes to start rehabbing his ankle tomorrow. But it will be some time before he resumes playing basketball.
``They're saying 6-8 weeks from the time of surgery," said Jefferson, ``but who knows because it's going quicker than expected right now. I'm going to be ready for training camp. I'm not going to say I'm going to be in the best shape when training camp starts, but by the time training camp ends, I'll be able to get myself into the shape I want to be in."
To make sure his weight stays in check, Jefferson has stayed away from fried food and sweets and hired a chef. This was to be a big summer for him as he worked to shed weight and body fat and rebounded from a pair of sprained ankles that curtailed his sophomore season.
Training camp starts Oct. 2, and don't be surprised if Jefferson misses a practice here or there. Lingering pain in the ankle, which Jefferson sprained Feb. 3 in a game against the Clippers, spurred him to have a CAT scan about a week after the Celtics returned from summer league play in Las Vegas. The ankle bothered Jefferson throughout the competition, but he had become accustomed to ``some good days and some bad days." He tried to ignore the fact that the pain never subsided. Much to his relief, the bone chips were discovered.
``It got to the point where it was really frustrating for myself," said Jefferson. ``It probably got to the point where some people didn't believe I was really hurt. After it started doing so well after surgery [with not a lot of pain or swelling], it was a big relief for me."
Asked if he is worried about chronic ankle problems throughout his career, Jefferson said, ``I'm not really concerned about it. That's why I'm doing what they tell me to do, so it heals right and it doesn't become a bigger problem. They want me to take it slow, so I'm babying it a little bit, not walking on it, keeping it propped up."
But don't confuse babying the ankle with Jefferson being a baby when it comes to injuries. He didn't like being called soft.
``I'm not going to say it didn't bother me at all," he said. ``But I know what I can do and who I am. I know if I'm in pain, I'm in pain. I don't have to lie about it because I'm too soft. I'm not going to lie to keep from playing basketball. I'm going to be the player I know I can be. No excuses."
In the past, guys such as Grant Long and Rodney Rogers brought a valued professionalism to the team. And neither of those players had anywhere near the résumé of Ratliff, who led the league in blocked shots (3.74 per game) during the 2000-01 season, was the starting center on the Eastern Conference All-Star team in 2001, and earned NBA all-defensive second-team honors in 1998-99.
``Theo is one of the best defenders in the league," said Portland coach Nate McMillan. ``It was very tough for me to let him go. We have a lot of young men on our team, but Theo is a man. He was the one pro that we had. He was a difference-maker.
``We only won 21, but I'm sure he was a part of all of them. He tried to speak up and talk, but he didn't want to be in that position. It was difficult for him to be with a team that was rebuilding and developing at this stage of his career. He'll help Boston."