Bobcats' Al Jefferson 'a tough hombre' as he fights through foot injury

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comApril 24, 2014 

— Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s simpledescription of Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson:

“He’s a tough hombre.”

Jefferson tore his plantar fascia in Sunday’s Game 1 of this best-of-7 Eastern Conference playoff series. He did further damage on Wednesday, having to leave the game in the first half for treatment.

“I just ran down the court and I felt it rip basically all the way through,” Jefferson said post-game. “It came up midway through my foot and it was just pain.

“Doctor said there was nothing more I could do to hurt it, so I just had to play through it.”

That he did, going 40 of a possible 48 minutes. Jefferson wasn’t himself – he missed seven of his first nine shots – but he was effective enough to give the Bobcats a chance at winning. They ultimately lost 101-97 to the Heat, to fall behind 2-0 in this series.

But, like Spoestra said, Jefferson was “hombre tough.” He finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, even while limping noticeably for portions of that game. And he was not a big liability on defense.

“Obviously he’s not anywhere close to 100 percent, but we can (still) play through him,” said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, who gave his team an off day Thursday. Game 3 is 7 p.m. Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“We had some good sequences of post offense. You’ve got to respect that he’s out there battling. He has no mobility, basically. He fought hard.”

Jefferson spent Sunday night through almost game time Wednesday with a protective boot covering his left foot. He receives ice, electric stimulation and laser treatment, but there is little relief for this injury beyond the rest he’ll get in the off-season.

Jefferson doesn’t anticipate needing surgery on his plantar fascia, which is connective tissue between the heel bone and the toes. This is what gives the foot its natural arch.

Jefferson didn’t appear to have his normal leverage or quickness to get to his preferred scoring spots near the basket. Also, the Heat aggressively double-teamed him for much of Wednesday’s game.

Jefferson countered that by playing more of a mid-post game, either setting up jump shots or passing to cutting teammates. Heat center Chris Bosh applauded how well Jefferson adapted to his circumstance.

“He’s gotten a rhythm of how to make his move without moving too much,” Bosh said. “He’s got phenomenal touch around the basket. He’s still getting to that left-shoulder hook shot, and he got a couple of putbacks, too.

“Once he gets in there, he’s just a big body. It’s tough to get around him sometimes. He’ll still be effective whether he’s injured or not. We just have to make sure we continue to prepare and push him as much as possible – put him in difficult situations.”

Jefferson’s rough first half meant he ended up 9-of-23 from the field Wednesday. Injury or not, Jefferson expects better of himself than that.

“I just missed too many shots,” Jefferson said. “I think I rushed a lot of shots, thinking about it. I got the shots I wanted; I just have to make them.

“When you lose a game that close (the Bobcats recovered from a 16-point deficit), it gets you thinking about every shot you missed that you think you should have made.

“I am going to have that on me for the next two days.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

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