From Britt Robson/On The Ball:
Timberwolves fans know what a big blow this is, and we can parse silver linings–huge absences bring forth compensations in an attempt to fill the void, the top-10 protected pick will be secured, etc. etc..But the cold fact remains that Jefferson was the best player on the ballclub and, especially in light of Randy Foye’s recent struggles and Kevin Love’s huge upgrade when paired with Jefferson, it isn’t even a close competition. Sure, they’ll be some surprises, but Wolves wins will be on the order of how the Hornets felt last night taking a game without CP3, Chandler, MoPete and an ejected West because Sean Marks and Rasual Butler went off for career games. The ballclub will be “building” without one of its cornerstones in place.
More to the point: How does a large-legged, 265-pound athlete come back from a torn knee ligiment? On the plus side, Jefferson’s game has never been about foot-speed or leaping ability. On the down side, that fancy footwork of his isn’t strictly mental; it requires a lot of pivots and twists, and a sharp quickness at a certain moment. Bottom line, will Jefferson ever be “good as new”? That’s the sobering question confronting this franchise. But we won’t know for many months, and idle punditry feels pretty self-indulgent at the moment.
And for the rest of us, not only does this make the Timberwolves borderline unwatchable, it delays the (hopefully) inevitable realization that the rest of the world needs to catch up on: Al Jefferson, at age 24, is already one of this league’s best players.
For those that had to sit through a week and a half of complaints on behalf of Mo Williams for his supposed All-Star snubbery, not hearing Jefferson’s name once in the midst of the litany of complaints was galling enough. Jefferson was left off of the West’s All-Star roster in favor of Shaquille O’Neal (17.7 points, nine rebounds, 1.5 blocks) and/or David West (19.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, one block), and yet nobody raised a hackle. Mainly because Al doesn’t get to start games alongside LeBron James.
And then … this? Not fun, not redeeming in any way, no silver lining (I don’t want to hear about Kevin Love) at all. Yes, we know he’ll be fine for training camp, but you’ll have to allow for some brooding until then.
From Ryne Nelson/SLAM Online:
For those who think the injury is a blessing in disguise, think again. The Wolves’ franchise player may never be the same, and the upcoming Class of 2009 may be one of the weakest in several years. Not only that, but the injuries to Jefferson and Brewer (who suffered a similar injury in late November) could be a huge deterrents in attracting free agents this summer. Kevin Love and Rodney Carney should have minutes to develop, but that’s the only true upside of the situation.
How Jefferson handles the rehab will be a test for him. He was quietly criticized for not being in proper shape this season, and the big question will be how hard he works to get into even better shape after being laid up for several months.
There’s no good way to dress this up. There are no silver linings. This is an unmitigated basketball disaster.
If you are looking for any possible silver linings: Kevin Love should see plenty of minutes the rest of the way; the Wolves’ chances of hanging onto their top-1o protected pick are even greater; and with any luck, Jefferson will be back by the start of next season. If you are looking for dark clouds, please consider that Jefferson is by far the Wolves’ best player, a reason to watch them on a nightly basis, and a budding chemistry between he and Love will be put on hold.
The plight of the Timberwolves looks gloomy. The AP recently reported that our favorite player, Al Jefferson, whom Jonathan Kaminsky profiled in 2008 story “Minnesota’s Franchise 2.0” went down against the New Orleans Hornets. Wolves fans… it’s time to get drunk. This one hurts.
Jefferson is very much an underrated player and should be considered one of the premiere post players in the game. Need proof? His 23.1 PPG/11.0 RPG/49.7 FG%/1.7 BPG statline should satisfy you. However, what is not satisfying is another big man goes down. First it was Andrew Bynum going down, then Elton Brand went down for the season, and now Jefferson.
Other players on the roster? Last time I checked, the last guy to average 23.1 points and 11 rebounds per game was Kevin Garnett, and he’s currently en route to a second championship ring in Boston. As the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, Big Al’s absence will be felt on both ends of the floor.