BOSTONWhen Doc Rivers watches former Celtic Al Jefferson on video now, he's amazed at what he sees -- and we're not talking about the significant weight loss, either.
"He just keeps getting better and better," Rivers said. "The thing that I thought I'd never say about Al, but Al's becoming a better passer and I'm very happy about that for him."
Indeed, the once-overweight big man who entered the NBA straight out of high school has evolved into one of the more offensively-gifted big men in the NBA with multiple means in which to impact games for the Utah Jazz.
On Wednesday, he delivered a solid performance of 13 points and 14 rebounds against his former team. But the C's still managed to escape with a win, 98-93.
With his size, experience and skill set, it's a given that Jefferson will be one of the more sought-after players this summer when he becomes a free agent.
"I'll cross that bridge when I get there. You don't want to think too far ahead," Jefferson said. "You have to take are of business, day by day. I really believe if I do my part, everything will work out."
Jefferson has said he's focused on doing all he can to get the Jazz back to the playoffs for the second straight year, but added that he would consider a return to Boston when he becomes a free agent.
"This is my first home," said Jefferson, who added that he loves it in Utah because they do things the right way, "kind of like Boston."
"This will always be my home away from home, first place I've been; gave me a chance when nobody else did," added Jefferson. "If that (returning to Boston) ever happened, I'd love to do that again. But right now, it's all about taking care of business and finishing the season off right."
Doing that means getting back to the playoffs, something that was a bit unexpected for the Jazz last season.
That experience bodes well for Jefferson, who had not been to the postseason since his days with the Celtics.
"Making that playoff run, he was a big part of that last year," Rivers said "That's kind of re-stoked him. It's good. He's a heck of a guy."
And a heck of a player who isn't the same wide-eyed youngster learning all he could from the slew of Celtics veterans ahead of him on the depth chart.
These days, he's the one doling out advice to youngsters like Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
"I think what probably surprises Al is how quickly you become a veteran," Rivers said. "And now, you have to give direction. It happens quickly."
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Boston sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.