Jefferson Fills Slot as Role Player in Utah

Jefferson Fills Slot as Role Player in Utah

Al Jefferson broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this season on Wednesday night, leading the Jazz over the Los Angeles Clippers in Utah. Eclipsing 30 points was a fairly regular occurrence for Jefferson during his two healthy years in Minnesota, covering 2007-08 and 50 games of 2008-09, when he accomplished the feat 18 times and was a 20-point, 10-rebound mainstay for the Timberwolves.

But neither Utah nor Jefferson is complaining about the dip in his scoring (16.7) and rebounding (8.8) averages this season, or the lowest-ever shooting percentage (47.9) of his seven-year career. At 22-11, Utah is off to its best start in four years, in large part because the positional flexibility of the 6-foot-10 Jefferson provided an ideal solution to Utah's simultaneous loss of power forward Carlos Boozer to free agency and center Mehmet Okur to an Achilles injury. For the first two months of the season, the Jazz have elevated Paul Millsap into Boozer's old slot and played Jefferson alongside him in the pivot. Now that Okur is slowly working his way back into the lineup, Jerry Sloan has a solid three-man rotation for his frontcourt.

Jefferson faced a bigger adjustment, downsizing his role from the go-to guy in Minnesota, to just a piece of the puzzle in Utah. But winning has more than soothed any perceived slights to his ego.

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