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Jefferson is the voice of experience

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / January 22, 2011

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Not long after Kendrick Perkins had surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament he tore in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Al Jefferson was in Boston to give him the unofficial survivor’s guide.

Jefferson went through the rehabilitation process in 2009, a year and a half after the Celtics sent him to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett trade. He shredded his ACL in February, had surgery, and tried not to fall into a depression.

“I know the first three months, for me, I was just lying on my back,’’ Jefferson said. “I didn’t even know if I was going to walk again. I knew, but it was just one of those things that you were just afraid you were never going to be the same guy you were.’’

Perkins had surgery last July. Jefferson, his teammate for three seasons, wanted to let him know he’d recover no matter how bad things seemed.

“We’re like two brothers, man,’’ Jefferson said. “It’s always going to be that way.

“I was just letting him know what he was about to see and what he was about to go through. It’s a long road, a long process. I told him it’s going to be hard and you’re going to think you’re going to never be the same, but you’ve just got to work through it.’’

Returning to Boston last night with a new team, the Utah Jazz, and with restored confidence two years after the operation, Jefferson is averaging 16.7 points and 8.7 rebounds this season, thriving with All-Star point guard Deron Williams feeding him the ball, though he did shoot 1 for 11 in last night’s 110-86 loss.

“He gets him the basketball,’’ said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. “He tries to get it to him where he’s most effective. I think that should improve as that goes along.’’

The biggest adjustment for Jefferson since joining Utah was simply winning. In his seven-year career, the only winning team Jefferson had been a part of was the 2004-05 Celtics, his rookie year. He’s lost at least 58 games in each of the past four seasons.

In Minnesota, the injury added salt to the wound of losing.

“It was just a learning process,’’ Jefferson said. “I knew we weren’t going to win a championship there. When I first got there, we were a young team and it was a rebuilding stage.’’

The Jazz already have won 27 games, more than Jefferson has seen since the 2005-06 season.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,’’ Jefferson said. “The only thing about it now when we do lose a game, it hurts a lot more now. It sticks with me. You would think I’d be used to losing game after game, but now when we win games and we do lose one it feels a lot worse.’’

But compared with the pain of an ACL tear and the recovery process, it’s nothing. Which was why Jefferson grinned when he saw Perkins doing sprints on the TD Garden floor before the game.

“To see him out there running, and saying he’s not that far away from being back on the court, it’s a blessing,’’ Jefferson said. Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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