Al Jefferson‘s second season with the Pacers reminds him of his first season with the now-defunct Bobcats four years ago. Neither team was expected to be in playoff contention, but 57 games into the 2017/18 campaign, the 32-25 Pacers – currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference — are on track for the postseason. “Yeah man, it reminds me of my first year in Charlotte during the 2013/14 season,” Jefferson said to Hoops Rumors in an exclusive interview before Wednesday’s first-half finale against the Nets. “No one counted us, nobody thought we would be good, and nobody thought we would be a playoff team. We became a playoff team and did well.” The Bobcats won just 28 total games in the two years before Jefferson signed a three-year, $40.5MM pact with Charlotte. Conversely, the Pacers began their post-Paul George era with reduced expectations and unanswered questions. Would Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis be a sufficient return for George? Can a team without an established star compete in the East? Could young players like Myles Turner take a step forward? So far, the answer has been yes across the board. Jefferson has 14 years in the NBA and five trips to the postseason to his credit. This season, the 33-year-old has accepted the role of reserve center and mentor. He has appeared in just 28 games, averaging 6.5 PPG and 3.8 RPG in 13.6 minutes per game – all career-lows.