Big Al (Jefferson) Not So Big Anymore

Charlotte Hornets big man Al Jefferson took a page out of the Tim Duncan playbook but at a much younger age. Jefferson, a 30 year old seven footer who was drafted out of high school by the Celtics, shed 25 pounds mostly by giving up his favorite chicken snack, Popeyes. Jefferson’s continued craving for the artery clogging, fat inducing animal flesh fast food was so bad he had to turn the television off whenever the Popeyes commercials came on and all those luscious pieces of fried chicken breast jumped off the television screen. Thus, the Mississippi native has come face to face with the expression, no pain-no gain, or in Big Al’s case, no pain, no weight loss.

Concerned about his professional future with added weight bogging down his joints, Jefferson was motivated. He’s played the full 82 game schedule only twice in his career and the fact is the extra weight was wreaking havoc on his skeletal system. The weight loss has given him a rejuvenated sense of self on the basketball court, that and the fact that the Hornets made some key offensive upgrades in the offseason, adding Nic Batum and Jeremy Lamb and drafting Frank Kaminsky. Jeremy Lin will add additional help in the backcourt.

“I’m licking my chops this year because I know the floor is going to be more open.”

What he won’t be licking is fried chicken, a way of life for everyone raised in a Mississippi house with a flag out front and an apple pie on the stove. He also did without sweets and dairy. He’s not finished either. He wants to lose a little bit more weight next summer as he takes this body reshaping thing to a new level which was motivated by Tim Duncan changing his body in 2011 at the age of 35.

“It’s like someone took a 25-pound man off my back. It was something I needed to do. I’m the oldest guy on the team. I still have a lot of years to play and I want to play at a high level. Everyone knows how to lose weight. You know what you’ve got to do. It is just hard to do it.”

What hasn’t been hard for Al Jefferson is a NBA career. He has been prodcutive playing for the Celtics, Timberwolves, Jazz and Hornets. He’s played in 766 NBA games racking up over 23,000 minutes and scoring 17 points and pulling down 9 rebounds. His body has suffered the wear and tear of being a big man in a physical league and his immediate goal is to play all 82 games.

In the last year of a three year deal, Jefferson has a lot to prove besides his health. Can he guide the Hornets to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference? He thinks he can play his same post game style and be successful. One of a dying breed, a back to the basket post player with excellent footwork, height, length and a sweet touch around the rim, Jefferson isn’t worried about his place in the small ball obsessive league.

“I know the game has changed a lot since my rookie year but at the end of the day I don’t know of any team that will turn away a post guy who can get you 20 and 10. Look at the NBA Finals. There were times where there wasn’t a guy over about 6-foot-6 in the game. There were small forwards playing center. But if guys like me can do what we do, we will still be around. I’m sure not about to change my game. I’m not going to shoot threes.”

photo via llananba