Jefferson to return 'better than ever'

Updated: March 12, 2009, 11:15 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Three weeks after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right knee, Al Jefferson's spirits are up, his weight is down and he is certain that he will "be back better than ever."

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his TV.

Jefferson
Jefferson

The Minnesota Timberwolves star's first experience with a traumatic injury has been difficult to handle at times, and he has already taken his frustrations out on one TV in his suburban Minneapolis home.

"I'm replacing a TV in my house right now, as we speak, because I threw things at the TV because I'd be so upset," Jefferson said sheepishly Wednesday in his first public comments since he was injured against New Orleans on Feb. 8. "Sometimes it's a bad call with the ref or anything. So I've got to control my emotion on that point."

It turns out that a thrown size 18 shoe can do quite a bit of damage to a flatscreen television.

"I had to replace that TV anyway," Jefferson said with a shrug.

It hasn't been nearly as easy for the Timberwolves to replace Jefferson, who was averaging 23.1 points and 11 rebounds and playing some of the best basketball of his life when he crumbled to the court in the final minute against the Hornets.

Minnesota has lost 10 straight heading into Wednesday night's game against the Memphis Grizzlies and is 1-12 without their man in the middle.

The injury has reduced Jefferson to a 6-foot-10, 265-pound couch potato.

"I felt like I just let myself down and let my team down," Jefferson said. "I know it was a freak accident, but I can't stand that they're playing without me and I can't be there to support them and be the backbone for them."

Ever since he was acquired as the centerpiece of a seven-player package from Boston in exchange for Kevin Garnett, that is exactly what Jefferson has been for this team. In the nine games before he was injured, Jefferson was averaging 27.2 points and 12.3 rebounds to make a late push for the All-Star game.

The Wolves got off to a 10-2 start in January, but now look lost without him.

"The thing that we've struggled with as a team since Al's gone out is really just how we're going to play, the style," coach Kevin McHale said. "We try to play with a little pace, but then with the pace we're turning it over. We try to slow it down, then we don't score very much.

"We're right now still in a phase where we've still got a lot of questions and not as many answers as you'd like."

At 18-45, this season is long gone for the Timberwolves. So Jefferson answered perhaps the biggest question in rather emphatic fashion on Wednesday.

"There's no doubt in my mind I'll be ready when the season starts," he said.

Jefferson's rehab had a setback when he needed some cartilage repaired and he is still on crutches with a bulky hip-to-ankle brace protecting his knee.

"I hate these," Jefferson said as he pointed at the crutches on the ground.

But he still expects to be 100 percent by the start of next season.

"I'm just going to take advantage of this time," he said. "I want to come back and be better than ever when I come back. And now I've got the time to do it."

While he is still laid up, Jefferson has made a point to watch even more basketball on the TVs that do work in his house. He said being able to step away from the game and watch from that angle has helped him understand nuances he didn't quite grasp before.

"I'm learning a lot of stuff," Jefferson said. "When Kevin McHale use to get on me in the film room sometimes, now I'm seeing what he's talking about."

The 24-year-old is still in the beginning stages of the rehab process, but McHale said the biggest obstacles for him will be mental, not physical.

"Al's still a young guy. He'll bounce back and he'll be fine," McHale said. "It's just going to be a long road between now and next October or November when he gets back to really being able to play. The rehab is just a long process."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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