Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 1:
Dallas Mavericks (1-0) @ Utah Jazz (0-0)
Player Focus: Al Jefferson
Sorry fans of the youth movement, this season is pretty much going to be primarily about Big Al. He led the team in points last year. He takes the most shots. The majority of the off-season moves were made to structure the team more around his talents. And everyone from the national media to the local media knows the score -- he's in a contract year, and he's not going to be asked to make any concessions this year. He's not going to have to deffer to anyone. And he's going to be our go to guy.
As a result, sadly, we're going to have to expect him to be that guy. I'd want us to share the sugar more, and we did so in the preseason. But the regular season is a different animal. Which is great, because in the preseason Al Jefferson shot 44.9 fg%, averaged 15.8 points per 36 minutes, went to the free throw line 1.8 times a game, and accrued a PPS value of 1.06 -- which is much lower than his average, which is already below NBA league average.
I love what Al's been doing by being more active on defense. I love what Al's been doing by passing the ball more (averaged 2.0 apg in 23.6 mpg in the preseason, a solid 3.0 in 36 minutes). But the big deal with Big Al as our $15 million dollar man is that we need him to be our first option. And he needs to be a deserving first option.
During the off-season I went deep into that and found some ways that could help him get there (more shots at the rim, less face up or turn around jumpers from no-man's land); however I don't know if the Jazz will run him like that. I want Al to succeed here. And a big part of that is going to become that steady, legit, premiere first option. In the preseason against Not- Dwight Howard, Not- Kendrick Perkins, and Not- Andrew Bogut (and not- LaMarcus Aldridge or not- Pau Gasol for one of two games) we did not get what we are paying for with Big Al.
He didn't do it for me in the preseason as a scorer. And he didn't do it against 2nd and 3rd level talent. The games mean something now, and we need Big Al to play Big. I think he can. But it has to start tonight, against Not- Chris Kaman.
C'mon Al, score 20 tonight while shooting above 50 fg%. We all know you can. And the immediate future of this team, in 2012-2013, will partly rely on you doing this every game. I know for a season you've only scored 20+ ppg twice in eight seasons, and shot above 50 fg% three times in eight seasons. Make this ninth seasons, a contract year, count. Make it count starting tonight.