Svelte Al Aims To Rebound From Down Year
The Indiana Pacers open training camp for the 2017-18 season next week and the new-look Pacers team features a version of Al Jefferson with a new outlook on life.
After a season that saw him miss 20 games, including the team’s final nine of the regular season and the entirety of their playoff series sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Big Al made some drastic changes to his lifestyle and has dropped 20 pounds since the end of last season, bringing his weight loss total to 40 since he signed on with the Pacers.
Appearing for the first time since last season at a team-sponsored golf outing this week, the noticeably slimmer big man attributed his new look to a major change that has him feeling better too.
“I’m a vegetarian now, that’s not because of the weight, it’s more of a health reason. Just working and watching what I eat. It’s easy to do, it’s all about being dedicated and that’s what I did. [I] feel a lot better, moving a lot better getting that weight off your joints.”
After spending most of June in Indiana, Al went home for the summer where he buckled down on his new lifestyle. He returned to Indiana this week reinvigorated, and was greeted by a new look roster and a new Pacers practice facility for them to get to know each other in.
“It’s a totally different team from June to now. So when I got back and looked around, it was a whole new place and a whole new team,” he said.
“[The new facility is] the best one I’ve ever seen. I’m thinking about putting a bedroom in there and just living in there. They got everything you need in there, a kitchen and everything. It’s perfect.”
After an offseason full of shakeups, the new look Pacers will be looking to utilize Big Al more on a roster that no longer features star Paul George, who was traded to Oklahoma City this summer. In exchange comes the addition of Victor Oladipo to the backcourt and Domantis Sabonis to the frontcourt, giving Big Al, the Pacers Teammate of the Year for 2016-17, a new charge to guide, as he did budding star Myles Turner in Indiana last year.
However last season was an uncharacteristically down year for No. 7 on the court, one he’d like to forget.
Playing in a reserve role full-time for the first time since his early years with the Boston Celtics, he averaged a career-low 14.1 points per game for the Pacers, and although his 8.1 points per game weren’t bad for his usage, his career-low 4.2 rebounds per game left something to be desired. He’s looking forward to a better season this year with a healthy body and mindset.
“I try not to look back on it because it’s not something I want to look back at,” he said of last season. “I know I didn’t do nowhere near what they brought me here to do. I had to go into the offseason with a bad taste in my mouth and I did something about it.”
“If I would have been satisfied with last season then that would have showed the type of person I am and I know I’m not that type of person.”
So Al went back to the drawing board looking to rebound in 2017-18. No. 7 told reporters that the inspiration for his offseason makeover was one of the true legends of the game, a long time rival big man who’s longevity carried him to a successful 19-year career. As he begins his own 14th NBA season, Al says adapting is just part of the game.
“Just taking a page out of Tim Duncan’s book. I’m 32 [years old] and I noticed when he got in his early thirties, he started slimming down and took it to a whole other level so that’s something I knew I needed to do,” he said.
He also noted that he hasn’t yet hit his goal weight. “I’m 275 [pounds] now, let’s just put it that way. I came a long way. I still want to get down to my rookie weight, I was 265 [pounds] my rookie weight so that’s what I want to get back to.”
With the NBA game evolving to see fewer and fewer true big men on the floor, Al thinks his new diet and weight loss can help him keep up with the new style and make him a piece the Pacers can use.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it because when you’re out here defending these fives that play around the three-point line, you got to be up and ready to move. That was one of the things, I wanted to be up on that pick-and-roll on defense because that’s big in this league right now. That’s one thing me and [head coach] Nate [McMillan] talked about going into this offseason and I know I can do all that stuff if I’m a lot lighter, so that’s what I did.”
Al’s new svelte self will be on display at Pacers Media Day, which will be held Monday, September 25 and then he’ll put it to work at training camp starting Tuesday, September 26.