AL JEFFERSON says he was young and dumb the last time he was in London – now he’s old and wise.
The 32-year-old, a 12-year veteran, returned to the capital this week with the Indiana Pacers to face the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
But he’s already played here before for the Minnesota Timberwolves, losing 92-81 to the Boston Celtics, another former team, in 2007.
The 6’10” centre went on to play some of his best ball for the Utah Jazz and the Charlotte Hornets.
But he’s now beginning to play a key role off the bench for the play-off bound Pacers despite less minutes, and aims to make the most of his return trip to London.
He said: “I got a chance to go there in 2007 and I was young and dumb and ignorant, and I didn’t know how to appreciate that.
“I’m a lot older now and going back, I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Jefferson warmed up for the trip by combining with frontcourt team-mate Kevin Seraphin for 22 points and 12 rebounds off the bench in Saturday’s 123-109 win over the New York Knicks at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
And he had 12 points and three rebounds in 14 minutes against the Orlando Magic earlier this month too.
After a mixed start to the season the Pacers are starting to come together at just the right time, with Paul George and Jeff Teague their main weapons, and Jefferson offering decent production off the bench.
He said: “I think we’re gelling real good.
“I always felt comfortable here since I’ve been here. The team has done a great job of making me feel comfortable, and I knew my role coming in here. I said that in July when I signed.”
Brought in to back up starting centre Myles Turner, Jefferson has helped keep defences honest because teams are often forced to double team him in the paint, opening the floor up for the shooters.
Team-mate CJ Miles said earlier this month: “Nobody can stop him. He’s either at the free throw line or he’s scoring. And if you come late, then you put their defence in rotation and we find people that can make shots.
“He’s found a way to still be relevant and still be effective.”