Jazz introduce new addition Al Jefferson
AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The Utah Jazz aren’t sure if they just picked up a new power forward or center.
Al Jefferson can play both positions, which is why Utah made a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves to get him.
“I’m going to do whatever I can, whatever they want me to do,” Jefferson said. “Just tell me and it’s done.”
Both Jefferson and the Jazz appeared to be thrilled with the new arrangement during a news conference Thursday.
“I just can’t wait for training camp to start. Normally I don’t never say that,” Jefferson said with a wide grin.
Utah just lost free agent Carlos Boozer to the Bulls last week, but quickly picked up another player who can average 20 points and 10 rebounds. Jefferson is a little bigger (6-foot-10, 265 pounds) than Boozer and four years younger.
General manager Kevin O’Connor said Jefferson could expect to play some at forward and some at center, where starter Mehmet Okur may not be available for training camp and the preseason as he recovers from surgery on a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.
While Okur is capable inside, he’s been more of an asset for his 3-point shooting. Jefferson is a completely different threat.
“I like to be in the paint. That’s where we get nasty,” Jefferson said.
And once Okur returns, the Jazz could have a lineup including Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Okur on the floor at once with All-Star point guard Deron Williams running the offense.
“We’re thrilled,” O’Connor said. “How many guys in the league talk about going down in the low post and love to get banged?”
Just a week after the Jazz lost Boozer and shooting guard Kyle Korver to free agent offers from Chicago, Utah’s future was looking considerably better Thursday. The Jazz have a deal in place to bring back shooting guard Raja Bell, who just needs to pass a physical.
Bell joined the Jazz in 2003 and was a leader the first two seasons Utah was without John Stockton and Karl Malone. Bell signed as a free agent with Phoenix after his career took off with the rebuilding Jazz. Now that the Jazz can contend in the playoffs, Bell is returning for a three-year deal worth about $10 million.
Bell was a favorite with both the fans and coach Jerry Sloan because of his defense. He is also a strong leader who the Jazz hope can help Williams take the team from the second round of the playoffs much deeper.
It also means the Jazz are not planning on matching Portland’s offer for restricted free agent Wesley Matthews – as long as Bell passes the physical.
While losing last year’s rookie surprise, the Jazz add a proven veteran in Bell and a new inside threat in Jefferson, who has played six NBA seasons and is just 25 years old.
Sloan, entering his 23rd season with the Jazz, will have a lot of options.
“One of the things Coach does so well is to put people in position to succeed,” O’Connor said.
Jefferson acknowledged his defense can lapse at times and expects Sloan’s blunt style to be exactly what he needs as a motivator.
Jefferson was the key player Boston sent over in the deal to get Kevin Garnett in 2006. He averaged 17.1 points and 9.3 rebounds last season and said he has recovered from a major knee injury in February 2009.
The Jazz got him from the Timberwolves for two future first-round draft picks and center Kosta Koufos.
Jefferson leaves the Timberwolves, who went 15-67 last season, for a team that’s been to the postseason four straight years. He hasn’t been on a winning team since he was a rookie with the Celtics in 2004-05.
“This team don’t accept losing. They don’t accept losing at all,” Jefferson said.