Interview: Jazz's Jefferson on new team, new life, Williams
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Excerpts from a recent interview with Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson.Jefferson on his first six seasons in the league with Boston and Minnesota, and being traded to Utah:It's been rough years. But now I've got another chance. I kind of feel like Pau Gasol, the way he felt, when he left Memphis and went to the Lakers. It's just a great opportunity for me to come. I feel like I'm an essential piece to this puzzle here. And I think with everything I bring to the table, it can really help this team get to the next level. It can also help me show the world the type of player that I can be. So, it's just a blessing. I'm really excited that they traded for me, because they didn't have to do it. They believed in me. They believed that I can be the guy that they need.Putting the Timberwolves years in perspective:The thing about Minnesota, every year that I was in Minnesota it was a rebuilding year. My first year, I got traded for Kevin Garnett, so it was a young team; we was rebuilding. The second year … Kevin McHale came in, so we had a little success then. And that's when I got hurt; that was kind of tough. And then that following year, we was rebuilding again, because they changed; we got new general managers, new coaches. So it was just like all three years I was there, we was rebuilding. We just never could get off that rebuilding stage. Now that I'm in Utah, they've got a history of staying consistent. That's one thing that I like about this team. They're consistent. They've got the same coach, the same coaching staff for so many years. They've been waiting for so many years. The fans are very supportive of their team. Not saying that Minnesota fans aren't; things just aren't consistent. That's one thing that I can say about Utah that stands out from Minnesota, is just they've been consistent for so many years.Playing with All-Star guard Deron Williams, and how that will affect his game:I never had the opportunity to play with a point guard like D Williams. … I've got the offense coming to me. Now, I'm in a situation where I don't have to have the ball the whole time. I don't have to worry about the double team the pushing out. This offense has been so good for so many years, all I've got to do is be ready to catch the ball.As far as the pick and roll, I like the option of me picking and rolling, and also of picking and popping. I think I can do both. It's something I'm going to work with in D Williams in training camp to get that down pat, because I know he's going to be looking to pass that ball. I've got great hands, so I've got to be ready to catch it. And I think I can do a good job with that.As far as my offense, I can catch the ball in the sweet spot. I don't have to work as hard to score now. I can catch the ball in the sweet spot and offense is going to put me where I need to be to score the basketball. The offense is perfect for me. It's not just all about me getting adjusted to the offense. It's doing what coach wants me to do, and run the offense the way that it should be run. And everything else is going to take care of itself.Bonding with and getting to know Williams:I've got a chance to spend a lot of time with him. We've been playing a lot of pick-up games, with me, him, Paul [Millsap] and C.J. [Miles]. All of us have really been spending a lot of time together. And like I've been saying, D Williams is Batman. He's Batman. He's the captain. He's the guy, you know. And I'm Robin. So I'm willing to do whatever. I'm not worried about jelling with him. I'm going to adjust to him. Whatever he needs me to do is going to be done. Because the first thing he said to me when I talked to him is, 'I'm going to make you an All-Star.' And when he said that to me, I believed him. He wasn't just talking. He wasn't just saying it because it sounded good. He really means that. And I'm not going to do nothing to mess that up. Whatever he wants me to do. I know he told me one thing, he was joking. He said I don't really dunk a lot in the games. And so [he said], 'If I throw you a sweet pass, you're going to have to dunk it.' And if he wants me to start dunking, I'll dunk it.His production during his first six years in the league, and what he can still accomplish:I've been in the league six years. I'm 25 years old. I'm still young, man. With this opportunity I got with the Jazz, that's one of the reasons I was happy that I didn't get traded to Dallas. I got traded here. Because we're all young here. We're all around the same age, and we can grow old together. The thing is, I think I can really take my game up to a whole other level. Because nobody is going to remember a guy who averaged 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] on a team that's only winning 14 games a year. But you will remember a guy who averaged 16 and 12 on a team that's making the playoffs every year. I just think I've only scratched the surface. I've got ways to go, man, if I can stay healthy. I think Utah's doing a great job with this weight program, keeping my body in shape, so I can prevent getting hurt. I just think that with that type of attitude; with the positive imaging around the team; everybody's jelling together; everybody's getting along; want to work hard; want to beat the [Los Angeles] Lakers; want to go to the next level; want to win a championship. I just think all that's going to pay off. When you're clicking together like that, everything else is going to work out for itself for the good of everybody. I just think sky's the limit for everything I can do from here on out. I think if I take care of my body, I know I've got a good 10-12 years left in this game. And I just know with the coaching staff, with the teammates and this positive attitude, I just think we can go all the way, man. It could be some great years to come.Evaluating his defense:It's kind of like it's going to have to improve. ... I know defense is one of the biggest keys here for winning a championship. So, when you've got guys like my teammates who know how to win and know what it takes to win, I'm not going to be the sore toe sticking out on the defensive end. I'm going to do what it takes. Defense has always been something I have to improve in. And one thing I know about Coach Sloan: He motivates you. He'll make you run through a wall for [him]. And I just think all that's going to bring up my game, my defensive game, all together. Coach Sloan, he's the type of guy that if I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, he's going to let me know. And that's what I need, and that's what's going to make me that great defensive player. Because one thing about defense: It's a mind thing. It's all mental. So, you've just got to do it, man. If your guy get beat, you've got to be there to help him. And I've got to trust that my guy is going to help me. It's a system. And that's just what it's going to take; there's just no excuses.His new life with the Jazz in Salt Lake City:Man, I'm happy, man. I love Salt Lake City. I don't know what people talking about. I heard the rumors before I got here that there's nothing to do here. Man, this is a wonderful place, man. It's a place that's got all four seasons. It's a family affair. There's so much things to do here, man. And the idea — the team I'm on — I've got the opportunity to win. I don't do the nightlife no more.I'm not going to be the type of guy who's going to go out and club all the time. I'm focused and I'm here to work and I'm here to win. And on top of that, I love the people in this city, man. Just think: When I used to come here as a Timberwolf, I thought everybody in Utah hated me. [lLaughs] Because this city was tough on me, man. But when I first got traded here, to see all these people that was so happy. And the people that had respect for my game, even when I was with the Timberwolves — we played them four times a year — they used to always say that I gave them problems. Even though we lost, I used to give the Jazz a tough time on that court. And to hear the fans welcome me with open arms: man. I can't wait for training camp. I've never been more excited to start a training camp in my life.