Bad-rap former Jazzman Big Al Jefferson is China-bound

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 15: Al Jefferson #25 of the Utah Jazz stretches with a trainer before playing against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 15, 2013 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 15: Al Jefferson #25 of the Utah Jazz stretches with a trainer before playing against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 15, 2013 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Former Utah Jazz big man Al Jefferson is moving on to the next phase of his hoops career after inking a deal to play in China.

An era in the annals of NBA basketball may have reached its end over the weekend. And I probably say that with a lot less snark than you would think. Al Jefferson — a 14-year veteran of the Association who spent three years as the Utah Jazz’s top dog — has decided to take his game overseas.

According to Turner Sports’ David Aldridge, the pivot man affectionately known as Big Al has rebuffed his opportunity to return to the Indiana Pacers and is set to sign on with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Jefferson, who was with Utah from 2010-13, was in and out of Coach Nate McMillan‘s rotation over the last two seasons in Indiana. However, he was effective as ever at getting buckets down low in limited action. The 33-year-old averaged 20 points per 36 minutes as a Pacer.

That said, his defensive shortcomings, occasional tendency to stop the ball and preference for scoring on the low post/lack of offensive versatility kept him from making a big impact in Indy. Those same quirks in his game were also bemoaned by Jazz fans over the years.

As for me, I think the guy gets a bad rap.

For all his warts, Jefferson was an exceedingly pleasant individual and a unique talent. More than anything, though, he was a player that could flat-out get buckets in the paint. His footwork in the post was basically unmatched in his prime and he was a legit threat to drop 20 and 10 every night out.

During his first year in Utah, he was also one of the best clutch performers in the Association, boasting an effective field goal percentage over 60 in the final three minutes of games with a scoring differential of five or less.

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Without him, the Jazz don’t make the playoffs in 2012 or finish over .500 the following year.

It’s kind of a shame Jefferson never picked up an All-Star nod, although he was an All-NBA Third Team selection in 2014 while playing for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Over 915 career games from 2004 to 2018, he averaged 15.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest. He may not be an analytical darling of the modern NBA, but he was very good at the things he did well for a whole lot of years.

Big Al follows in the footsteps of former Jazzmen Isaac Austin and Bryce Cotton, both of whom spent time with the Flying Tigers. Other American stars to play in the CBA include Gilbert Arenas, Carlos Boozer, Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Kenyon Martin, Tracy McGrady, the late Roy Tarpley and Metta World Peace.