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Hard work in offseason paying off for Jazz's Al Jefferson

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 6:11 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz's Gordon Hayward (20) lays up a shot over Golden State Warriors' Dorell Wright, left, and Nate Robinson (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Oakland, Calif.  (Ben Margot, Associated Press) Utah Jazz's Gordon Hayward (20) lays up a shot over Golden State Warriors' Dorell Wright, left, and Nate Robinson (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Oakland, Calif. (Ben Margot, Associated Press)

OAKLAND, Calif. — Only two things have been effective in slowing Al Jefferson this season.

The Los Angeles Lakers held him to 2-for-16 shooting on opening night. And his temporarily inflamed ankle kept him out of a home win against Philadelphia.

Other than those two bumps in the road, it's been a mostly smooth start to the season for the eight-year veteran who spent nearly the entire offseason busting his rear — and other body parts — to get into the best physical shape of his life.

"The hard work paid off," Jefferson said.

Indeed it has. Though his weight is up to 289 pounds, Big Al is stronger and quicker than he's ever been.

Improved results are there, too.

Coming into Saturday's late game at Golden State, Jefferson averaged a team-best 22.3 points and 9.0 rebounds since being sidelined against the Sixers a week ago Friday.

Golden State Warriors' David Lee, right, drives against Utah Jazz's Paul Millsap during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Oakland, Calif.  (Ben Margot, Associated Press) Golden State Warriors' David Lee, right, drives against Utah Jazz's Paul Millsap during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Oakland, Calif. (Ben Margot, Associated Press)

Big Al seems more agile and active on both ends, with his offensive moves happening quicker and more explosively and his defensive presence being felt more prominently (as witnessed by his 10 blocked shots).

Jefferson credits his extensive offseason workout regiment at the Santa Barbara performance training center, P3.

The challenge, Jefferson admitted, will be to keep up on his strength-building in between games.

"I've been doing it so far. I've got to continue to do that because it's going to help," Jefferson said. "Lifting weights is very important during the season."

Jefferson said he needs to maintain all the muscle mass he can against the bigs in the NBA, like the Gasol brothers (Marc and Pau).

There's another option he wouldn't mind seeing happen when it comes to the tough-to-handle Memphis and L.A. centers.

Golden State Warriors' Monta Ellis (8) lays up a shot as Utah Jazz's Al Jefferson (25) and Josh Howard (8) look on  during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Oakland, Calif.  (Ben Margot, Associated Press) Golden State Warriors' Monta Ellis (8) lays up a shot as Utah Jazz's Al Jefferson (25) and Josh Howard (8) look on during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Oakland, Calif. (Ben Margot, Associated Press)

Added Jefferson: "We've got to get one of them brothers out of here, send one of them to the East or something."

FAMILIAR FACE: Saturday night's game featured two head coaches who have been mentored to some point by Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan.

Corbin, of course, played for the Jazz in the 1990s and then assisted Sloan for almost seven seasons before filling in his shoes after his resignation 11 months ago.

Mark Jackson, the Warriors' new head coach, played for the Jazz for one season. As John Stockton's backup in 2002-03, Jackson averaged 4.7 points, 4.6 assist and 2.1 rebounds.

"He's been a leader. He's a point guard. He's a leader," Corbin said of Jackson. "He understands the game very well. He's a people-person. He knows how to motivate guys. I think that he'll do a good job for them."

Utah Jazz's Paul Millsap (24) celebrates with Gordon Hayward in the final minutes of the NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Oakland, Calif.  (Ben Margot, Associated Press) Utah Jazz's Paul Millsap (24) celebrates with Gordon Hayward in the final minutes of the NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Oakland, Calif. (Ben Margot, Associated Press)

DISTINCT INTEREST: The Jazz want the Warriors to have a bad season, but not too bad of a season.

Utah picked up a protected first-round pick from New Jersey via Golden State in the Deron Williams trade last February. (The Jazz also got Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, the Nets' 2011 pick aka Enes Kanter and cash).

The Jazz's future draft selection from the Warriors has stipulations. Utah will only get it this summer or in 2013 if Golden State doesn't end up with one of the top seven picks. It's top-six protected in 2014.

If those don't happen, the Jazz will get two second round picks from Golden State (2014 and '16).

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