Players Arriving Early as Training Camp Nears

WALTHAM - Temperatures in the low 70's are just circumstantial evidence, but the clearest indication that summer is over in Waltham is the familiar sound of basketballs bouncing at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint.

Ryan Gomes and Al Jefferson have been here almost all summer long, working out on their own and spending time hitting the bikes hard or just simply shooting around. Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West have been in pretty regularly as well. But Tuesday, the boys were back en masse for the first time and engaged in some four-on-four play, pressing Director of Player Development Mike Crotty into service to match up against Allan Ray.

Gerald Green and Dwayne Jones joined Green and Crotty on one squad, while Tony Allen, Kevin Pittsnogle and Ray joined Theo Ratliff on the other. Green had a few impressive put back dunks on rebounds, while Tony Allen looked good cutting to the hoop.

Ratliff just arrived in Boston and was getting to know his teammates, who already learned today that he sets solid picks and carves out space for his jump hook quite nicely with his broad shoulders. The elder statesman on the floor by far, he was already dispensing advice to younger players about setting picks and getting open.

While the half-court competition was spirited, the trash talking may have been more impressive than the actual basketball. And when you leave officiating and score-keeping up to NBA players, there's bound to be some good-natured arguing.

Rookies like Pittsnogle and Ray weren't allowed to call their own fouls, and when it wasn't clear off whom the ball went out of bounds, the guys settled who gets possession just like you do in the schoolyard.

Shoot for it.

Jefferson Back on Road to Recovery

Jefferson isn't quite ready to start cutting on his ankle yet, so he didn't join in the pickup game, but he spent plenty of time on the exercise bike before moving to the other end of the floor to work on his outside shot.

Big Al knows he had something of a lost season last year, but he's determined to break out this year and said that he's set a goal of averaging a double-double this season.

"I set a goal for this offseason to come in and work my rump off, become a better player and work on my weaknesses," said Jefferson. "That's what I did. I've been here in Boston this whole summer working hard."

Jefferson also knows that he has to work on his defensive awareness, and he says he's going to be watching plenty of tape between now and training camp to improve. He feels like he made some strides with his defense during the Vegas Summer League and wants to pick up where he left off before his latest ankle surgery just over a month ago.

Oh yeah, the ankle. Everyone wants to know about his ankle. So when will people start talking to Jefferson without asking about his ankle woes?

"Probably after preseason once I've played a couple of games," said Jefferson. "By November, that ankle situation will be behind me and we can just move on."

Jefferson also reported that Kendrick Perkins is "feeling good" and just recently started to play in contact situations. Jefferson said that it's a big year for Perkins and himself, and he think Ratliff will be a big influence on both of them.

"I think he's going to be a big key for me and for Perk," said Jefferson, who noted that the team has a lot of young veterans who are tired of losing. "He's a vet and he's been where we're trying to go. It's going to be fun."

Jefferson also talked to Fox Sports New England's Greg Dickerson after his workout.

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