BOSTON -- When Al Jefferson visited Boston with the Utah Jazz last season, Celtics coach Doc Rivers sneaked in dinner with his former player. Their schedules didn't afford any such socializing this time around.
"Screw Al, I don’t have time for him," Rivers quipped before Wednesday's game at TD Garden. "He’s too good now."
Joking aside, Rivers likes what he sees from the 27-year-old big man, who is now in his ninth year in the league.
"He just keeps getting better and better," Rivers said. "The thing I thought I’d never say about Al, he’s becoming a better passer. And I’m very happy about that for him. He just keeps working on his game. He hit that one little stretch where, he had lost a lot, you could see he’s fought through that now. Making that playoff run, and he was a big part of it last year, has kind of re-stoked him and that’s good. He’s a heck of a guy."
Taken by the Celtics with the 15th pick in the 2004 draft, Jefferson spent three seasons in Boston before being dealt to Minnesota as part of the package that brought back Kevin Garnett. Jefferson is in the final year of his contract (one that will pay him $15 million). Would he entertain the idea of a Boston return if that option existed next offseason?
"Well, this is my first home, man," said Jefferson. "This will always be my home away from home. This is the first place I ever -- Danny Ainge gave me a chance when nobody else did. So if that situation were to happen, I would love to do that again. But right now, like I said, it's just all about taking care of business and finishing the season out right."
A few other pregame nuggets:
* ROOKS TO THE D-LEAGUE: The Celtics assigned rookies Fab Melo and Kris Joseph to the Maine Red Claws of the D-League on Wednesday and Rivers thinks it'll be good for the two players to get game reps. "It’s great for both of them," he said. "We actually thought about, for a little bit, keeping Kris up. But we have no practices coming up, so that’s what we needed him for right now, and Fab, he just needs to play and learn. I think [Claws coach] Mike [Taylor] will do a great job with [Melo]. It’s a good experience for both of them."
* A RETURN TO MAINE FOR BRADLEY?: Rivers was asked about the possibility of sending Avery Bradley (shoulders) to the D-League to shake some rust when he's getting closer to game action. "I don’t know," Rivers said. "We’re not sure yet. I've got to get Mike’s input on how the D-League is. If it’s a physical crazy league, I don’t want Avery down there, either. But we’ll see. That’s a tough one for us because he needs to get back to learning the stuff we are doing. But it would be great to see him play a couple games before we throw him out on the floor."
* SAME STARTING 5: The Celtics will trot out the same starting five for the third straight night in Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Garnett. Rivers admitted the Jazz have the potential to go extremely big with the likes of Paul Millsap at small forward, but wouldn't tip his hand on whether this would be a night someone like Darko Milicic or Jason Collins could see floor time.