Al Jefferson officially joined the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday, immediately becoming the team’s best low-post player and also exhibiting some Southern charm in his opening press conference.
“I can’t express how happy I am to be here,” said Jefferson, who said he also had some interest from Dallas and New Orleans. Originally from a small town in Mississippi, Jefferson said Charlotte reminded him of his roots and that he “couldn’t sleep a wink” after visiting with team brass recently. He said he had run into future teammate Kemba Walker in New York a couple of months ago and they had joked about teaming up without ever truly believing it would become a reality.
Said Rod Higgins, the Bobcats’ president of basketball operations, of Jefferson: “He gives us a low-post presence we have not had on our roster and brings a skill set that does not become available very often.”
Jefferson, a nine-year NBA veteran, has averaged 16.5 points and nine rebounds over his career. His signing represents the boldest and most expensive free-agent acquisition since the Bobcats began play in 2004 and should help quell the notion that owner Michael Jordan won’t spend big money to try and win. Jefferson, 28, reportedly has received a deal from the Bobcats worth about $41 million over three years, with the third year at the player’s option.
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The Bobcats have gone 28-120 over the past two seasons, and one of their biggest problems has been scoring in the low post and defending the rim. Jefferson is a rarity in the NBA – a true back-to-the-basket center, something the Bobcats haven’t had since Emeka Okafor.
From Mississippi, where he was drafted out of high school in 2004, Jefferson is listed at 6-foot-10 and close to 290 pounds. He was picked 15th overall in that draft – the same one in which the Bobcats selected Emeka Okafor No.2 overall. For old-timers, Jefferson said his game is similar to former NBA star Moses Malone – an old-school mix of athleticism, crafty pump fakes and pure strength.
Jefferson is an old-school player with far more offense in his game than Bismack Biyombo (although his defense is off and on and he has some trouble defending the pick-and-roll). He will likely start alongside rookie Cody Zeller at power forward, giving the Bobcats far more scoring punch down low than they’ve had for awhile. Jefferson led the Jazz in scoring and rebounding last year. He and Dwight Howard are the only two NBA players to have averaged at least 17 points and nine rebounds over each of the past six seasons.