Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson says a healthy Mehmet Okur is a beast to guard
SALT LAKE CITY — Jazz center Al Jefferson has first-hand experience of what it's like to guard a healthy Mehmet Okur.
For six seasons, Big Al drew that defensive assignment when he played for Boston and Minnesota. Last year, Okur was hampered by a surgically repaired Achilles tendon and back issues, so Jefferson didn't get the opportunity to face a fully functioning Memo in Utah practices.
But he's getting more than enough of a full-strength Memo in camp action this week.
"I used to guard him when we played against them (Jazz) all the time. He wasn't fun to guard," Jefferson said. "He's not even fun to guard in practice right now."
The 6-foot-10, 280-pound Jefferson quickly rattled off one big reason why.
"Yesterday, he had me running off a double screen," Jefferson said. "I ain't never run off a double screen in my life."
Because of the 6-11 Okur's outside potency and inside efficiency, Jefferson's current practice problem will present a defensive dilemma for Jazz opponents.
"That's the good thing about having a healthy Memo," Jefferson said. "(He) opens everything up."
Former Jazz All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer used to benefit from that, Jefferson recalled.
Focus on Boozer, and defenses risked getting torched from afar by Okur. Focus on Memo, and defenses risked getting burned inside by Boozer.
Now Jefferson looks forward to reaping the rewards while other centers deal with Utah's defense-stretching big.
That's right. Jefferson, the likely starting center, raised the interesting possibility that he'll be on the court at the same time as his possible backup, Okur. That is one of many combinations Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin could go with this season considering his big man depth.
"He just really opened the game up for Boozer," Jefferson said. "That's basically what he's going to do for me and all of the other post players here. It's going to spread the floor."
And force opponents to make tough decisions.
"You come help on me, you're going to have him out there hitting that wide-open 3," Jefferson said. "And if you worry about him, you're going to have me down there on the one-on-one.
"They're going to have to pick and choose their poison."
Depending on personnel, that same scenario figures to happen with Okur playing center alongside power forwards Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors.
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