Al’s ready to work in Utah

By Randy Hollis
Updated: July 16, 2010

UTAH — He won’t bring the type of versatile offensive repertoire to the Utah Jazz that Carlos Boozer did.

But, based on the downright gracious demeanor he displayed during Thursday’s welcome-to-Utah press conference, it sure looks like Al Jefferson will bring some impressive intangibles to the table that his predecessor sorely lacked.

Qualities like sincerity, honesty and humility. Yes, Jefferson certainly said all the right things — just as Boozer almost always did during his six-year stint in a Jazz uniform.

The difference was that, when Jefferson spoke, he actually sounded like he meant absolutely every word of it.

And if you closed your eyes and listened to the genuine, candid words that came from the mouth of the 6-foot-10, 265-pound center/power forward, he sounded an awful lot like a young — dare we say it? — Karl Malone.

Indeed, the enthusiasm, excitement and eager-to-please personality that Jefferson revealed to the assembled media Thursday would’ve made the Mailman proud.

“I think the basketball gods was thinking about me that night,” he said of what transpired earlier this week, when Utah’s trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves came together. “When I woke up and found out I had a chance to come here … for a long time, I didn’t believe it.

“It’s just a blessing, man. I’m going to do whatever it takes. … I’m going to try and get this team to the Finals and win. I’m going to do whatever it takes to do that. I’ll do whatever I can, whatever they want me to do.”

They’ll want him to do plenty, and he intends to live up to those lofty expectations.

Jefferson, 25, is a proven low-post scorer who prefers to do his work down in the paint — “That’s where we get nasty,” he said — and readily admits that he’s not the outside shooter that Boozer is.

He also knows that his defense, much like Boozer’s, needs a lot of improvement, too. But realizing his limitations is a big step in the right direction.

“I know this is a first-class team, and I’ve got to step up to the plate,” Jefferson said. “I told my agent, ‘If you can make Utah happen, let’s do it,’ because I felt like this was a place I could come and fit right in.”

Can you imagine? A top-notch NBA player who actually wants to play here.

But can you blame him? After all, he’s been in the league for six seasons and has only been to the NBA playoffs once — in his first year.

Last season, coming off a knee injury, he busted his tail for a woeful T-Wolves team that only won 15 games all season long. Now, he’s coming to a franchise that almost takes postseason appearances for granted.

And he’s anxious to play for a tough-guy coach, Jerry Sloan, who demands the most from his players.

“I know the fans and the coach do not accept losing here,” Jefferson said. “This team don’t accept losing, they don’t accept losing at all.

“I can’t wait for training camp to start, and normally I don’t ever say that. … I need a coach like that; I need a coach who’s going to get everything out of me. I need that, I need that.

“This is a great opportunity for me to show what I can do,” he said. “… I’m not planning on letting nobody down.”

And, as for his much-publicized driving-under-the-influence charge from earlier this year, he sounded truly embarrassed and repentive.

“That was the best thing that happened to me because it taught me a lesson,” Jefferson said. “I know not to do it no more. It was a stupid mistake that I made. … I’m glad it happened and I learned my lesson, and it will never happen again.”

Now, if Jefferson just does his talking on the court half as well as he did in his press conference Thursday, well, the Jazz have got themselves a heckuva young basketball player with a ton of upside.