What they’ve been writing about Al Jefferson during his career with the Utah Jazz:
He’ll be missed
April 20: Al Jefferson … deserves to be remembered well around here. He performed better than Paul Millsap in every respect this season. That’s a statement I never would have expected to make, and here’s another: Jefferson will be missed more than Millsap, who may have been the most affected by the free agency-based uncertainty that surrounded this team. Kurt Kragthorpe, Salt Lake Tribune columnist
April 19: At the Jazz’s locker cleanout session, after a playoff-less season, Jefferson manages to accidentally lighten the mood by professing his affection for the local community: “I love the city of Utah. It’s a great city.” As media members chuckle, Jazz PR director Jonathan Rinehart softly says “Salt Lake.” “Salt Lake,” says Jefferson. “I’m sorry… I love the city of Salt Lake.” Jody Genessy, Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)
2013 playoff drive
April 19: After the Jazz failed to make the playoffs, newspapers speculated on whether Jefferson would be back with Utah: Jefferson may be the biggest part of the puzzle for the Jazz. He led the Jazz in scoring and rebounding, improved his defense and his passing. In the team’s final loss to Memphis, Jefferson had 22 points and 16 rebounds. “It would have been so easy to fold up and give up on the season. We fought all the way until the end,” Jefferson said. “Even though we didn’t make the playoffs, I don’t think nobody should put their head down.” Jefferson, acquired in a July 2010 trade, believes he has transformed himself since then. “I have showed I’m not just the black hole reputation I had years ago,” he said of never passing the ball back out of the post. “I showed people that I can do other things.” He gave credit to the critics, including Jazz coaches, who said his defense stunk when he arrived. Associated Press
April 16: Al Jefferson had 22 points and eight rebounds to help Utah keep its playoff hopes alive with a 96-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, setting up one more must-win game in the season finale on Wednesday. Idaho State Journal
April 12: In what could be the biggest game of the season thus far, the Utah Jazz got one of the best performances of their center’s life. Al Jefferson simply would not let the Jazz lose as his stellar night propelled the Jazz to a huge 107-100 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. … Give the man the game ball: The Jazz effort began and ended with Jefferson. In probably the gutsiest outing of his career, Jefferson put the team on his back and willed them all evening. ... He connected on 19 of 27 shots for 40 points, got 13 rebounds, a team-high six assists and a much-deserved standing ovation from the appreciative EnergySolutions Arena crowd. David Smith, Deseret Morning News
Struggles on defense
March 17: Unlike Al Jefferson on the pick and roll, there’s no getting around this issue. “The biggest area of concern is our defensive habits,” Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey said. … That’s been chronicled all year long.” The Jazz, who allow 98.9 points per game on the season, have seen that number balloon to 105.5 points in their last eight losses. They are 21st in the defensive rankings. … Jefferson is famously slow at defending the bread-and-butter play, and teams often make that their primary offensive game plan when the center is in the game. One rival scout described Jefferson as not having “that urgency he needs to have on defense.” With him on the floor, the Jazz allow 108.3 points for every 100 possessions, while they give up only 98 when he is on the bench. Bill Oram, The Salt Lake Tribune
Aiding in tornado aftermath
Feb. 19: In a video report published online by WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg, Al Jefferson could be seen visiting families in areas hit hardest by the tornado, which reportedly destroyed or damaged 800 homes. Jefferson grew up in Prentiss, a small town 55 miles from Hattiesburg, a college city of 50,000 people. While no one was killed by the storm, it gutted sections of Hattiesburg. “It took my breath away,” Jefferson told the news station. “I’m still kind of amazed just to see all of the damage that was done.” WDAM reported Jefferson pledged to buy a new car for a teenage girl whose vehicle was destroyed by the tornado.
“It feels good, man,” Jefferson said. “It feels real good, especially when you’re able to do it. This time, everybody needs to come together and stick together and help each other out.” Jefferson, who makes $15 million this season in the final year of his contract with the Jazz, also hosts an offseason basketball camp for children and funded a scholarship endowment in honor of his late father. “If I can just help someone get through this,” he said, “it makes me feel better and like I did my part.” Bill Oram The Salt Lake Tribune
Oct. 23, 2012: It would have been an easily forgettable thing, if not for who did it and what happened immediately after. In the final minutes of Utah’s win over the Clippers on Saturday, Enes Kanter got the ball … took a step back and nailed a 15-foot jump shot. It was a play Kanter likely would not have made last season, but it was a carbon copy of a classic maneuver by the player after whom he models his game. As he ran back down the floor, the second-year center unholstered an extended index finger and pointed it at the Jazz bench. Al Jefferson jumped up, arms stretched to the sky as if signaling a touchdown. … He has become indispensable to the franchise as a teacher to Kanter, who he calls “my young fella,” the player whose growth may ultimately make Jefferson expendable. “When I got in the league I believed the older guys helped me understand the game and regardless of if I’m here next year or whatever the situation is, I want to know when I leave that I did my best to teach him.” In the preseason, Kanter is averaging 11 points and 9.5 rebounds through six games, up from 4.6 and 4.2 a year ago. Kanter gives the credit to Jefferson. “He’s always trying to help me about anything,” Kanter said, “about basketball or life.” Bill Oram, The Salt Lake Tribune
Toughing it out
April 8: Some would’ve never returned. Others would’ve stayed on the bench after they felt the second pull. Al Jefferson? Back in the fight, running the court, recording game highs in points (30) and blocks (5) while grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds. All while twice suffering an abdominal strain in the Jazz’s 104-98 victory against the Golden State Warriors on Friday at EnergySolutions Arena. Think Big Al doesn’t want it? Think the eight-year center doesn’t dream hard and often about a winning record, making the playoffs, and erasing six consecutive seasons of bad luck and worse endings? Think again.
Jefferson acknowledged the second abdominal pull produced “mad pain” after he went up for a rebound with 4:37 left in the third quarter. He briefly retreated to the locker room. He applied ice. He winced several times on the bench. But with Utah down 80-78 at the start of the final period and the Jazz badly in need of a win, Jefferson was back on the court. “I’m the type of person, if I can go, I will go. ... I told coach I was good,” Jefferson said. Brian T. Smith The Salt Lake Tribune
One – or 33 – for Grandma
March 14: Al Jefferson didn’t sleep Sunday night. How could he? His 82-year-old grandmother, Gladys Jefferson, had just passed away. Gladys had raised and guided Jefferson, pushing him to be more than just an unknown young child living in small-town Prentiss, Miss. It was nothing but pure, tough love for Jefferson. … Which is why Jefferson’s game-high 33 points on 14-of-18 shooting Monday during a 105-90 victory against the Detroit Pistons was so perfect. Why his game-high 12 rebounds and team-high 36 minutes and 13 seconds of action felt so right at EnergySolutions Arena before a crowd of 19,393. And why when Jefferson accepted a last-second pass from Devin Harris, then threw up a 25-foot prayer that magically sailed through the net for the first made 3-pointer of his career, the night and the game belonged not to Jefferson or the Jazz, but to Gladys.
“God don’t put you through nothing that you can’t get through, and God don’t make no mistakes, either,” said Jefferson, who missed shootaround so he could catch up on his sleep. “You’ve just got to get through it. Because you go through pain and that’ll make the happiness even better.
“My grandmother is with me all of the time,” Jefferson said. “She made me the man I am today. She was with me when I made mistakes, and with me when I did great. I know she’s resting. It’s tough to go through, but it’s part of life and you must go on.” Brian T. Smith, Salt Lake Tribune
Utah Acquires Jefferson
July 13, 2010: “What we feel like is that we really added a premium player to our team,” says general manager Kevin O’Connor of Jefferson, who he calls one of the best low-post players in basketball. The Jazz got him from Minnesota for two future first-round draft picks and center Kosta Koufos. Adds O’Connor on Jefferson looking forward to the move: “If I was a player that had the size that he had, the hands that he had, the moves that he had and I had Deron Williams, I’d be pretty happy, too.” Ross Siler, Salt Lake Tribune
Looking forward to his new gig with the Jazz, Jefferson says, “I like to be in the paint. That’s where we get nasty.” Says O’Connor: “We’re thrilled. How many guys in the league talk about going down in the low post and love to get banged?” Jefferson, who hasn’t been on a winning team since his rookie season with the Celtics in 2004-05, looks forward to the four-straight-playoff-season Jazz: “This team don’t accept losing. They don’t accept losing at all.” Associated Press