Jazz center puts in more work in hopes of more playoff success.
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Al Jefferson says little about him has changed.
Tyrone Corbin says much has.
Four days into Utah Jazz training camp and going into Saturday's scrimmage, it's becoming apparent that both men can be right.
Entering his third season with the Jazz, Jefferson said he returned essentially in the same physical condition as the end of last season. This season and last, he said, he entered training camp in the best shape of his career.
In that sense, Jefferson staying the same is good news for the Jazz. But over the two seasons Corbin, the Jazz coach, has studied Jefferson, he has seen a slow change.
"He's grown, in my opinion, so much in learning how to play to help his team win and not just for numbers," Corbin said.
Jefferson said Friday the impetus for any change in his conditioning or productivity has little to do with his pending free agency or the emergence of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Jefferson tries to steer clear of both of those topics. He said Friday he is pushed by the Jazz's early and decisive exit from the playoffs more than the other circumstances.
"It was a bitter taste," Jefferson said. "It was a bittersweet situation. I was there for the first time in six, seven years but then it didn't go the way we wanted it to go. Now it's more about getting there and advancing."
He averaged 18 points in last year's playoffs, but struggled defensively in the four-game sweep by the Spurs. Playing in the postseason for the first time since his rookie season with Boston, Jefferson was forced to settle for lessons learned from the veteran Spurs, who he said "took it to a whole different level."
"That's the way we're going to have to get," he said. "We've got to understand that getting to the playoffs is one thing, but we need to learn to take it to a different level once we get there."
After being the new guy two years ago, pieces were added in the offseason around Jefferson to help the Jazz get back to the playoffs and advance. He already knew point guard Mo Williams, who is also from Mississippi, and Marvin Williams, against whom he played in AAU and high school all-star games.
So, think of this year as Al and Friends, although Jefferson said Williams' best contribution is not simply being his friend and offseason training partner.
"If Monday was the first time I ever met Mo in my life, as far as a person," Jefferson said, "I'd still be excited to play with him, but just because of the type of player he is on the court."
Position • Center. Age • 28. Experience • Ninth season
Notable • Averaged 19.2 points and 18 points in the playoffs last season for the Jazz. … Reached postseason last year for the first time since 2004-05, his rookie season. … Among eight Jazz players in the final year of his contract.
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