NBA@2: Al Jefferson Off The Market?
Al Jefferson’s NBA journey has not been what many would call a success. He’s made plenty of money, to be sure, and his stats have been impressive, for the most part, but he has yet to prove that he can help an NBA team win. He was drafted in 2004 by a Boston Celtics team that finished four games over .500 and even made the playoffs. But that team lost to the Indiana Pacers in the first round and Jefferson has never been back to the postseason.
The Celtics were very much in transition during Jefferson’s tenure, and he wound up being shipped to Minnesota in the trade that landed Kevin Garnett in Boston. He spent three seasons in Minnesota at a time when the Timberwolves were basically only competing for the league’s worst record, and then landed in Utah just in time for the Jazz to implode. Jerry Sloan quit after a spat with Deron Williams, who was promptly traded, and it seemed Jefferson was about to be part of a rebuilding team once again.
Then again, maybe not.
The 2011 offseason was marred by the NBA lockout, and Jefferson’s name came up early and often in trade rumors; however, when the 2011-12 season finally tipped off Jefferson was still in a Jazz uniform and to date he has them looking very much like a playoff team. Jefferson is leading the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game while also averaging 9.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, and while they have struggled on the road – like so many teams have this season – they are as good as any team save the Thunder, Spurs and Lakers at home. In fact, Utah is really starting to feel like home for Jefferson, who has never really felt like he was at home on a team before.
“I want it to be my home for a long time,” Jefferson tells HOOPSWORLD. “It’s going to be up to Kevin O’Conner to decide that, but I want to be here. It’s a great group of guys, everybody here gets along, everybody plays for each other, nobody’s trying to go out and do it for himself. If C.J. (Miles) goes out and scores I feel like I scored. I’ve never been around a team that’s like this. We’re handling the success. I hope I can make this my home because I’m tired of having to get adjusted to different teams. This is my third team and I hope the third ones the charm.”
More than anything, Jefferson feels like this is finally his chance to get back to winning and return to the playoffs.
“I’m still young,” says Jefferson. “I’m not Gordon Hayward young but you’re right, it is time for me to start winning and to take my team into the playoffs. I know I have a lot to offer and I just want to show it.”
The team’s early success this season was encouraging, but to make the playoffs in the gauntlet that is the Western Conference the Jazz still have plenty of work to do.
“It’s just about playing hard and playing together,” says Jefferson. “It’s still early, we need to continue to stay hungry, stay humble and continue to do what we’ve been doing on the defensive end.”
In particular, Jefferson likes what he’s seeing from front court mate Paul Millsap, and even believes Millsap to be one of the best at his position.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Paul Millsap’s game. When he first came into the league on the scouting report it said, ‘Block out.’ He was known as a great rebounder; now he’s known for everything. He can shoot threes, he’s a great offensive player, he’s a great defensive player and he’s still a great rebounder. Even before I came to Utah I always had respect for his game. Playing against him I knew that he just had to wait his turn. (Carlos) Boozer is a great player but once he went to Chicago it opened the door for Paul to come in and now he’s one of the leaders on this team. I think he’s one of the top power forwards in the game.”
In the flip side is point guard Devin Harris, who is struggling to find himself in head coach Ty Corbin’s system. Trade rumors have been circulating about Harris, but Jefferson thinks Harris will eventually find his way in Utah.
“Absolutely. Devin has been doing a great job,” says Jefferson. “Everybody has had to adjust to this offense. When I first got here it was tough for me but Devin came in the middle of the season last year. Unfortunately, we had an abbreviated training camp this year and I think for the time we’ve had and what he had to work with he’s been doing a great job. He’s adjusting really well.”
One thing that’s helped is that the Jazz really are Corbin’s team now, and slowly but surely he’s implementing his own style and vision for the Jazz.
“It’s his team now for sure,” agrees Jefferson. “Coach (Sloan) stepped down last year, Ty took over and this is what he’s supposed to do. Coach has been preaching one thing since day one and that’s defense. That’s what we try to go out there and do and that’s what’s been getting us the wins this season. We just have to stick to our defensive game plan and we’ll be ready.”
The Jazz are not elite on the defensive end, ranking 22nd in points allows and 20th in opponent’s field goal percentage, but they’re getting there. If they can find a way to play as consistently on the road as they do at home they should be right back in the playoffs . . .a place Al Jefferson has longed to be since that first brief taste in Boston so many years ago.
Michael Redd Heating Up In Phoenix
When the Phoenix Suns signed free agent guard Michael Redd over the abbreviated NBA offseason, it seemed a move that was unlikely to yield much fruit. Sure, the thought of Michael Redd returning to the form he displayed before back-to-back knee surgeries was intriguing, but it seemed equally unlikely. Players just don’t often miss multiple seasons with multiple surgeries and then suddenly burst back onto the scene. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what Redd pledged to do.
“I’m blessed to even play again,” Redd told HOOPSWORLD just before his first game as a Sun. “After the second time around with that ACL I could see my career flash in front of me. So you know, this last year and a half, two years I’ve learned so much without playing. I miss the game, and to be healthy again … I’m just grateful. I think that’s the word for me right now. I’m now just grateful. When I get back it’s attack mode. It’s not being timid and soft out there; I think I’m going to be aggressive and do what Michael Redd does.”
It took a while, but lately we are, indeed, seeing Michael Redd in attack mode. We’re seeing the Michael Redd who used to light up the scoreboard for the Milwaukee Bucks, and as a result the Suns have started to put some wins on the board.
After starting the season with just eight wins in 22 tries, the Suns have won three straight, and the only difference has been that Redd is beginning to find his shot again. He struggled in January, averaging 3.5 points and shooting just 27% from the field. He even drew three straight DNP-CDs at one point, but he kept working and stayed ready for the next opportunity which was sure to come. It came against the Charlotte Bobcats last weekend, a game in which Redd poured in 17 points in 23 minutes in a 95-89 win. He then scored 10 points in a surprising win over the Atlanta Hawks, followed by a 14-point outing in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks last night.
The Suns signed Redd in the hopes that he would give them a significant threat on the offensive end, and now, just over a month into the season, he’s starting to do just that . . .and wins are the direct result.
In case you missed HOOPSWORLD’s recent interview with Michael Redd, check it out below!
The New York Knicks have certainly had their problems this season, getting off to a 10-15 start in a year where they were expected to be among the NBA’s elite.
And that was when they were healthy and at full strength.
Over the last couple of days events have conspired to make life even tough for the Knicks, with Carmelo Anthony expected to miss the next week or two as he recovers from a groin strain and now Amar’e Stoudemire taking a three-game leave of absence to mourn the loss of his brother.
New York was just starting to build a little momentum, too, having won back-to-back games against the cross-town Nets and the Utah Jazz. They face the hapless Washington Wizards next, but that might turn out to be a challenge with two All-Stars out of the lineup. After that the schedule brings much tougher opponents in the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. They also have games coming up against the Toronto Raptors and Nets (again), two teams that could look to pass the Knicks in the standings before the All-Star break.
As things that, the Knicks are clinging to the Eastern Conference’s ninth seed, with the Cleveland Cavaliers just one game behind. The question is, how far might they fall before they have their lineup intact once again?
*The HOOPSWORLD team extends our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the Stoudemire family as they face this difficult time.*
Houston To Host NBA All-Star 2013
Houston will once again play host to a constellation of the world’s brightest stars as it has been selected as the site of NBA All-Star 2013, the NBA announced today.
The 62nd NBA All-Star Game will be played on Sunday, Feb. 17, at the Toyota Center, which will also host the NBA Rising Stars Challenge and NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm. NBA All-Star Jam Session, the hugely successful interactive basketball celebration, will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
“Houston is a spectacular sports city, and for one week it will be the basketball capital of the world,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern. “NBA All-Star is a magnificent celebration of our game, and I want to thank the city and the Rockets for welcoming us once again.”
The 2013 game will mark the third NBA All-Star celebration in Houston. The city also hosted the event in 1989 and in 2006.
“I am thrilled the Rockets and the City of Houston have once again brought NBA All-Star to Toyota Center,” said Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “The All-Star Game showcases the best basketball players in the world and will allow our great Rockets fans and the entire community the opportunity to once again experience the best that our league has to offer. The 2006 All-Star Game in Houston was a tremendous success and we plan to set the bar even higher in 2013. We take great pride in Toyota Center’s standing as one of the premier venues in the country and are honored to be the first arena in Texas to host the game for a second time.”
“I want to thank the City staff, Houston Rockets Owner Leslie Alexander and the Houston/Harris County Sports Authority for all the work that went into bringing this world premier sporting event back to Houston,” said Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker. “Houston knows how to show visitors a good time and we can’t wait to pamper NBA fans with our southern hospitality and charm. You could spend 365 days in our city and still not experience everything this town has to offer. We are alive with talent, rich in diversity and just downright full of fun. I wish the NBA and all of its fans an unforgettable stay in Houston.”
The 2013 game will mark the 29th year that Turner Sports will provide NBA All-Star coverage, and the 11th consecutive year the All-Star Game will be televised in primetime on TNT. The All-Star Game will be seen by a worldwide television audience in more than 200 countries and territories and in more than 40 languages.
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