Welcome back, Al Jefferson.
It’s been eons since the workaholic low post man got to experience the playoffs. In fact, his only other taste of the postseason was as a rookie with the Celtics in 2005.
Lost in the hoopla and praise of all big-name stars that make the jump into the NBA and become perennial fixtures in April, May and June are the old pros who just keep grinding it out with little reward.
“Seven long years; seven long years since I have been in the playoffs,” Jefferson said. “It’s a blessing. It’s a great opportunity to get here, a lot of people counted us out, nobody thought this team would be in a position to get in the playoffs, and we made it. It’s a great group of guys and everyone on our team deserves it.”
No other leading scorer on a 2012 playoff team has waited as long as Jefferson to end a drought of playoff appearances. Three seasons of suffering in Minnesota and then he arrived in Utah in the season when the Jazz’ playoff run ended. Then they started off this season losing their first two games by 42 points. Then they were 15-18 just after the All-Star break. Then they lost eight of 13 games just before the stretch run. Now they have made it. And so has Jefferson.
“It was a long road,” he said. “We started with short training camp, with a young team. We just stayed with it. Coach believed in us, we believed in ourselves, we got confidence and everybody just stepped up. It’s just a wonderful feeling we worked real hard to get here. I’m just proud of all the guys and everybody who just stayed with it.
“It’s good to make people eat their words. That’s what we did. Now it’s time to go and shock the world.”
Welcome back, Al.