Big Al Heads to China

After 14 seasons, 915 games and over 26,000 minutes in the NBA, Al Jefferson is making a globetrotting move to continue his basketball career in China.

Big Al confirmed this week that he has signed with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association. Al, who was waived by the Pacers in early July, believes he still has plenty left in the tank and is looking forward to the new experience.

“The NBA has been so good to me. But, you know I’ve been in there 14 years. I’m 33 and I just feel like I’ve still got a couple good years left.”

Over the course of his NBA career, Big Al has been one of the top producing big men in the NBA, amassing averages that peaked at 23 points and 11 rebounds per game. He settled in with 15.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for his career.

Though he took a backseat on the 2017-18 Pacers, playing in just 36 games, when he did play, Al was extremely productive. The Big Fella averaged 18.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, in line with his career, per 36-minute averages. Additionally, when he didn’t play, Al still had an integral role in the Indiana locker room and even after waiving his contract, Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said the team discussed brining Al back.

“We had a lot of conversations with Al. We will miss his role. He plans on going overseas and playing,” Pritchard said. “Like I said all year, and Nate (McMillan) believes this as well, Al was our most important player. And so the thing that I’ve learned in my 20 years in this league is sometimes the guy is good enough to play but doesn’t and brings a positive influence, that guy is critical to what we do.”

After the way last season unfolded, Al knows there are opportunities for him away from the court when his career comes to a close. But he felt the chance to play overseas and have a bigger role and chance to contribute on the court was too good to pass up. And at the end of the day, he didn’t want to end his career before he was ready.

“I don’t want to retire and regret it,” Al said. “I don’t want to be done all together and regret it like “I wish I would’ve played another two years.’ So this experience for me in China will be a good experience for me.”

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