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Jefferson Hits Stride With Bobcats (article by Steve Aschburner of NBA.com)


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#1 Proudiddy

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 01:14 PM

Great article:


Few NBA observers were wowed last summer when veteran big man Al Jefferson, 10 days after hitting the free-agent market, signed with the Charlotte Bobcats. That whole dance that goes on every year when notable players seek new destinations – “I want to win. I want to get a ring” – was conspicuously absent. The Bobcats were a long way from winning, conventional wisdom said, and everyone knew it. Jefferson included.

So when Charlotte guard Kemba Walker, who shares the same agent (Jeff Schwartz), nudged Jefferson in New York with the idea in the days prior to his team-shopping, “Big Al” scoffed.

“At first I thought it was just a joke,” Jefferson told NBA.com in a phone interview Monday. “I was like, ‘Heh. Yeah, right. Whatever,’ “

Then Schwartz suggested Jefferson make a visit to Charlotte to at least hear the Bobcats out. The rest has been a happy half-season of history for all concerned.

“I met the coaching staff. That was the first impression right there,” Jefferson said of Steve Clifford and his assistants. “That showed me that MJ [team chairman Michael Jordan], Rod [Higgins, Charlotte president of basketball operations] and those guys, they went and got a great coach and staff. That let me know right there they were trying to turn this franchise around.

“Then I looked at the young talent: Jeff Taylor, MKG [Michael Kidd-Gilchrist], Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson. Bis [Bismack Biyombo], a great high-energy big. Brendan Haywood and [Jannero] Pargo, guys who have been around the league and know what it takes to win.

“You add a guy with my talent and the things I’m able to do on offense. And then you look at the East, I really thought that was the best decision for me.”

To the outside world, Jefferson’s decision to leave the Jazz and choose the Bobcats looked like a cash grab. It was pretty nice grab, too: three years, $40.5 million. But for a player entering his 10th NBA season whose teams in Boston, Minnesota and Utah were a combined 160 under .500, with just one playoff appearance (four games) after his rookie year, it seemed like misplaced priorities or a competitive surrender.

Jefferson shrugged off that perception much like he did Walker’s initial suggestion.

“I could care less what the world says about what I was trying to do,” he said. “It wasn’t just about the money. I told Kemba when I first signed, ‘I’m not coming here to lose. I’m not coming here to be the best player on a bad team.’ I was coming here to try to turn this thing around. So far, I feel like everybody’s on the same page.”

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VIDEO: Al Jefferson talks about his footwork-focused game throughout his career

No kidding. At 19-27 on the eve of a four-game trip out West that begins at Denver Wednesday, the Bobcats are eight games better than they were at this point a year ago (11-35) and only two victories shy of their 2012-13 season total. If they maintain their current .413 pace the rest of the way, the Bobcats will finish 34-48, an increase of 13 victories.

And based on the East’s mediocrity so far, that would be good enough for a playoff spot. Last season, only Orlando (20-62) finished behind the Bobcats out East.

Individually, Jefferson is averaging 18.9 points and 10.5 rebounds, with nine consecutive games of 20 points or more – most recently, 32 on 15-of-26 shooting against Chicago Saturday – and 19 double-doubles. He missed nine of Charlotte’s first 12 games with a bruised ankle suffered early in the preseason but clearly has caught up and hit his stride. His January numbers: 22.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg and 53.3 percent shooting.

“What we’re seeing now is really the fruits of his labor,” said Clifford, who considers Jefferson a leader and his best player. “Both doing a lot of extra rehab and a lot of extra conditioning, to get his ankle stronger and get into the kind of game shape he needed to be in, in order to do well. Now he’s not just back to where we hoped he could be, but really playing at a level more efficient than we could have hoped for.”

Even on defense, never a Jefferson strength. Clifford is happy with the results overall – defensively the Bobcats rank in the top 10 in points per possession, points in the paint and free throws attempted – and suggests the veteran’s good instincts at that end are being matched more often with greater effort. When he’s on the floor, Charlotte’s defensive rating goes up but its net scoring differential goes down.

Clifford is happy with how Jefferson has fared on defense, which has never been Big Al’s strength. Overall defensively, the Bobcats rank in the top 10 in points per possession, points in the paint and free throws attempted, which suggests the veteran’s good defensive instincts are being matched more often with greater effort. When he’s on the floor, Charlotte’s defensive rating goes up but its net scoring differential goes down.

Jefferson credits the system, along with some extra work with assistant Patrick Ewing. “He feels like my offensive game really don’t need that much work. So he’s trying to get me to be more of a defensive-minded player,” Jefferson said. “Just being more of a helper. I’m the big man. I’m not a shot blocker like some of the great bigs in this league, but I can be over to help a lot earlier, just to get them to see a body and make it more difficult.”

Jefferson has been playing well enough lately that, as the conference coaches make their picks for All-Star reserves, he is worthy of consideration. But he learned a long time ago not to get too hopeful about honor.

“I don’t really get caught up in it no more,” he said. “Because there were some years where I was really disappointed. I remember that one in Phoenix [in 2009], I was so close to buying flights to get my family out there, ‘cuz I knew I had an opportunity that they’d vote me in. But they didn’t. So I made a promise to myself then that I’m not going to worry myself about it.”

Jefferson had 30 double-doubles in his first 50 games with the Timberwolves that season, averaging 23.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. No sooner had he learned he wasn’t selected, though, than his season ended with a blown right ACL in a game at New Orleans.

Said Jefferson: “It’s something every player dreams about, just because it’s recognition, having ‘All Star’ behind you name. If they vote me in, I’ll be very thankful and very happy. But if they don’t vote me in, I’ll be OK too.”

He isn’t nearly as casual about the Bobcats’ quest for success. “

“The Charlotte Bobcats always have been one of the laughingstocks in the league,” Jefferson said. “But where we at right now, two games of tying the victory total from last year, to me, I’m not satisfied with that. The other guys aren’t satisfied with that.”

Sooner rather than later, Jefferson doesn’t want anyone scoffing or smirking at the idea of joining the Bobcats the way he did last summer.

 

Also, the writers from NBA.com were asked who their picks that they thought wouldn't get in the all-star game but deserved to were, and Aschburner wrote this:

 


Give me the player you’d like to see on the All-Star team but probably won’t make it?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Al Jefferson, Charlotte. Just wrote about the guy, the season he’s having, the career he’s had, his impact on an improving Bobcats team and his really unfortunate close call as an All-Star reserve in 2009, when he suffered a double-whammy after missing out on the West squad by immediately blowing out a knee. Don’t give me that “All Stars need to come from teams north of .500″ stuff, because it’s a team game and the NBA wants top players to migrate to struggling franchises, right? A roster spot in New Orleans – site of his knee blowout, coincidentally – and a few All-Star minutes would light up Big Al like a Roman candle.

 

Awesomeness.

 

I'm holding on to some sliver of hope that Big Al gets in tonight.  I don't think it's likely, but he just said last night that he's only at 85-90% right now, so he definitely deserves it.



#2 Buzz

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 03:07 PM

That was a great read and I'm happy to see Jefferson getting the attention.

 

I like how candid he was about the Bobcats not being taken seriously and how he wanted to change that.  You can tell Big Al wants to win, by the way he plays and by the way he has stepped up and willed this team to multiple victories.  He didn't just come here for a check and then sleep walk, the man has busted his butt.  I have been impressed with his pull up jumper and the consistency in which he hits it.

 

I really do hope he gets an All-Star nod.  I also think his being here will open the doors for other free agents, Al has been around awhile but he is only 29 so he still has multiple good years left.



#3 Rise of The Hive

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 11:22 PM

I wish he would have taken his stat padding self and hit his stride somewhere else, he is killing our future.



#4 MichaelNewtonII

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 10:48 AM

jefferson a 1 man show



#5 PantherBrew

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 11:07 AM

GTFO with the Jefferson hate. 

 

Padding stats is the dumbest thing I have ever heard.  He is top 20 PER rankings.  

 

This is what happens when you are the best player on an average team, someone has to carry the load. 



#6 poorboysrev

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 11:11 AM

I wish he would have taken his stat padding self and hit his stride somewhere else, he is killing our future.

Big Al is the only reason a good FA would actually sign here. Put a wing scorer with him and Kemba and you've got something.



#7 rscott94

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 12:21 PM

Just imagine if his ankle was 100%....Or if he was never injured. He's been a beast 



#8 poorboysrev

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 12:50 PM

Just imagine if his ankle was 100%....Or if he was never injured. He's been a beast 

Yes he has. He is the big signing that the team had to get. Someone had to be first to give us a shot at other big free agents. These guys wishing that our best player with PROVEN talent never came here for a better shot at draft picks that we have no idea about yet is crazy. Their are other models to win besides OKC. I prefer the Pacers myself. It shows that you don't need a top 3 pick to build a contender....now get the man someone who can score from the wing!




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