Right before the start of the season, I interviewed Wolves forward Al Jefferson for a big feature that ended up running in Dime #53. At the time, Big Al was still at home in Mississippi and was extremely optimistic about the season. He was telling me about how he thought this could be the year he makes his first All-Star team. Jefferson also thought that Minnesota could be a surprise team, much like the ’08-09 Blazers team.
Here we are almost five months later and the Wolves are dead last in the Western Conference with a 9-36 record (last year they were 16-29 at this time). Jefferson’s struggled with new coach, Kurt Rambis’ triangle offense early in the season and his numbers (18.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg) are down from last year (23.1 ppg, 10.9 rpg). To top things off, there were rumors in the media that he and Kevin Love were feuding and there is even speculation that the Wolves may be currently shopping him.
Right as he was leaving the T-Wolves’ locker room to do some pregame work on the court before their game against the Knicks last night, I was able to catch up with Big Al…
Dime: How disappointing has this season been, considering you had such high expectations?
Al Jefferson: Where did you hear we had high expectations from!?
Dime: You told me that over the summer.
AJ: I did say that!? What I say?
Dime: You said that you thought you guys could maybe compete for the playoffs.
AJ: I said that!? Oh man…it was too hot there in Mississippi (laughs). Nah…you know, I don’t think it’s too much of a disappointing season, it’s more of a learning season. There’s a new offense, new coaches, new players. So, we’ve been just trying to get used to everything. We’re getting used to it now though.
Dime: You’ve played a lot better in the month of January. What’s been the difference from your slow start?
AJ: Just getting my feel back. My knee’s feeling a whole lot better. Also getting my touch back. It took a little longer than I thought it would take. But I’ve never had an injury like that before. It’s coming along though, it’s going a lot better.
Dime: Does it bother you when you hear trade rumors about yourself?
AJ: It’s a part of the business. I’ve been traded before, I know how it goes. But this time of year, there’s always going to be rumors. But that’s why they call them rumors – don’t mean they’re true. If it do happen, it’s just part of the business.
Dime: It has also been in the media that there is tension between you and Kevin Love. How do you respond to that?
AJ: That’s B.S. to me. Whoever saying that obviously doesn’t know what’s going on. Kevin Love is like my son. We have a great relationship so we can’t even worry about what people say.
Dime: There’s 37 games to go. How do you want to finish off the year?
AJ: Just get better. Get better as a team and get better personally. If I can finish strong and stay healthy, we have a better chance to come back next year and start from scratch and try to make the playoffs.