Al Jefferson Is Tough


Al Jefferson Is Tough

After having his knee drained for the third time in the last eight days, head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, Steve Clifford, was not sure whether Jefferson should start.

However, Clifford put Big Al into the line-up and despite the pain in his knee, and the flagrant foul he absorbed from Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond, Jefferson still put up 11 points and nine rebounds.

After the game, Jefferson talked about dealing with his injury:

"“It’s tough, but I still can play and bring something to the table to help my team win,” Jefferson said. “I’m playing with a hurt knee but teams are still double-teaming me. I’ve got to suck it up and I feel like I can play. I’ve just got to do it.”"

Contrast what Jefferson is doing to what other high profile players have said or done in the last year. Derrick Rose would be the obvious one, when he came out and said point blank that he will not play injured in order to maintain his health after basketball:

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"“When I sit out it’€™s not because of this year. I’€™m thinking about long term. I’€™m thinking about after I’€™m done with basketball. Having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to, I don’€™t want to be in my meetings all sore. Or be at my son’€™s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past. (I’€™m) just learning and being smart.”"

Those comments were condemned by most former players and the media as a whole. Rose was lambasted for not giving everything he had while getting paid a maximum salary.

Questions over whether Thom Thibodeau’s coaching style prevented Rose from easing back into the line-up, or even allowed Rose to play without serious risk of re-injury came up, but ultimately people blamed Rose himself for not playing, even if he was not one hundred percent healthy.

Charles Barkley, basketball personality and one of the co-hosts of TNT’s Inside The NBA, had a good take on the comments:

"“He’s a great player and a great kid…but that was stupid. We’re so blessed. I limp around but I go home to a big ol’ mansion,” Barkley said. “There are people that work harder than Derrick Rose that go home to a shack. There are consequences for what we do for a living. We’ve got the best life in the world. I’m a poor black kid from Leeds, Alabama, who grew up in the projects and I don’t mind limping around [now]. When I go home, I have a big ol’ house. I’ve got good sheets; I don’t know the thread count, but they’re good sheets. I’ve got a big car and I never have to worry about bills. Derrick Rose is making $20 million dollars a year and he’s got a couple of bad knees. There are pros and cons of what we do for a living.”"

What Barkley said is exactly what most think about when athletes complain of the wear and tear on your body. More than though, is the fact that Rose could have walked away from the game at any time, if he was willing to give up his $20M a year salary.

If he kept cashing the checks, then he should be on the court regardless of future consequences. Which brings us back to Al Jefferson.

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There is no question that the big guy is in pain, and that it would be much more comfortable for him to just shut it down for a few weeks. The bigger picture is that even if Jefferson plays well, the team wins, and we see the Hornets in the NBA playoffs, chances are strong that Charlotte loses that first round series.

So Jefferson is killing himself just to be first-round fodder for the Atlanta Hawks. Yet, he is still out there because to Jefferson, this is more about his responsibility to his team and teammates, and even his responsibility to Hornets’ fans everywhere.

He has to be on that court whenever possible because he is a professional athlete making tens of millions of dollars each year. So even if you are not the biggest Big Al fan, you should cheer him anyway.

The guy is gutting out these games when anyone else, including Rose, would be on the bench in street clothes. He wants to win. He wants to make into the playoffs. He is not taking his money, career, and fame for granted.

Guys like Rose could learn a lot from Al Jefferson.