The one things that stands out to me about Utah, before I got here, I wasn't used to winning. When I came here, we had a lot of success and big wins and playoff runs, so it was good to come here and get that experience. —Al Jefferson
SALT LAKE CITY — Big Al Jefferson is a country boy from the backwoods of Mississippi.
At 33 years old, the Indiana Pacers center is now considered a veteran, but three seasons of experiencing the mountains of Salt Lake City contributed to his long-term success in the league.
He celebrated birthdays No. 26, 27 and 28 in a No. 25 Jazz uniform.
“The one thing that stands out to me about Utah, before I got here, I wasn’t used to winning,” Jefferson said. “When I came here, we had a lot of success and big wins and playoff runs, so it was good to come here and get that experience.”
Jefferson returned to help the Pacers beat the Jazz on Monday 109-94 with six points, 10 rebounds and a block. He’s averaging 6.7 points and 4.5 rebounds as a solid reserve this season.
The 14-year veteran spent three seasons as a Jazzman from 2010-13, where he averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds on 49.4 percent shooting in 221 games.
In 2012, he was a member of the Jazz team that fell to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the postseason, but averaged 18.3 points and 8.5 boards in four contests. He’ll never forget those memories.
“It’s always good to come back here, man,” Jefferson said. “When you’ve been around as long as I have, you have a lot of former teams, but no it’s always good to come back. The crowd is going to be into it, you’ve just got to be ready for it.”
The Boston Celtics, with the 15th overall pick of the 2004 NBA draft, originally drafted Jefferson. In addition to playing in Indiana, Boston and Utah, he also played in Minnesota and Charlotte. These days, he still keeps up with the Jazz, especially his former teammate Derrick Favors and fellow Mississippi native Rodney Hood.
“I’ve been following them. I still keep up with (Derrick Favors) and all my rookies,” Jefferson said. “When you’ve been around as long as I have, you try to keep up with the young guys and watch them become veteran players. It’s always good to see that.”
WELCOME BACK: Utah’s G-League affiliate the Salt Lake Stars has re-acquired former Jazz two-way player Naz Mitrou-Long. The move comes just two days after being waived by the Jazz to acquire his former Iowa State teammate Georges Niang. Mitrou-Long has appeared in 22 games with the Stars, averaging 15.3 points, 5.9 boards, 3.9 assists and 1.1 steals. He played in one game for the Jazz against Denver on Dec. 26, where he nailed a 3-pointer. The Stars have waived center Sidy Djitte.