How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Al Jefferson

I’m not going to create any personal revisionist history here:  I was a hater.  I heard every one of the countless “Al Jefferson is a black hole and nothing ever comes out” arguments and nodded in agreement.  I watched him give up big numbers night after night and I really wondered if it was worth it.  When the Jazz drafted Enes Kanter in June, I thought it was writing on the wall that the Al Jefferson experiment had failed.  While I always liked the guy in interviews, I could never fight the feeling that he just didn’t get it.  He didn’t understand what little things he had to do to make his teammates better and get the team more wins.  In my view, all he did was give up easy buckets and take tons of shots.

Naturally, when the season started in L.A., all of my worst fears were realized as he took it upon himself to make a run at the worst-shooting night in franchise history.  Grasping for some silver lining, I remember telling Evan after the game, “At least if he keeps playing this poorly, the Jazz will have to do something.”  Then, when we won the home opener against Philly without him, my skepticism was fueled even further as I was quite convinced that we would have blown it if Al was in to let Spencer Hawes get 10 more easy points.

I can’t really point to an exact moment across the past week or two that made me start to come out of my staunch position, but I think the whole Al Jefferson picture started to finally come together for me.  True, we were winning, he was making his shots, and (gasp!) even playing defense, but there was something more to it than that.  I finally realized that by being a part of this team, Al is finally getting a chance to learn how to win.  Sure, it’s not a coincidence that every team he’s played for has failed to  reach the postseason, but nobody ever taught him how to win games.  We all thought that it was going to come to him when he came to town with Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan at the mast, but maybe it’s now.  Maybe being a part of our rebuilding process will help him rediscover how to succeed at the game of basketball.

Not to rain on our glorious and unexpected 6-3 parade, but the Jazz are now coming out of what is probably the easiest part of their schedule.  Even if things turn sour for the Jazz, I’ve come to the conclusion that Big Al really deserves the support either way.  The poor guy just hasn’t learned to win yet, and not for lack of trying.  He was never given a good look from a good team and now he’s still trying to figure out what he has to do to get the promised land of the postseason.  The last time that he won anything was the 3A Mississippi state championship and he had to average 44 points a game to do it (which I suppose explains his current shooting habits).  Though last year was a spectacular disaster of a season, it seems fitting that Utah should be the place where Big Al finally figures out how to play for the win.  Even though there will undoubtedly be some more highs and lows before he gets there, I reluctantly concede that he deserves a little patience.

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    • Christina
    • January 12th, 2012

    Al Jefferson’s is the most rookie-esque experienced player on the Jazz….hopefully he’s worth the investment

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