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Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson still has a lot to learn about Jazz offense

New Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson recently found out he still has 25-30 offensive plays to learn.
New Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson recently found out he still has 25-30 offensive plays to learn.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Al Jefferson learned something about his new team's offense last week.

The lesson?

"I told him we've got 25 or 30 more plays," Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "I thought he was going to pass out."

That smelling-salt revelation was made in Wednesday's win over Toronto when a cross-screen play that hasn't yet been introduced this fall was called during a huddle.

Team captain Deron Williams reminded Sloan of that, and the whole chat bewildered Jefferson.

"I was like, 'You mean to tell me there's more?'" Jefferson said, laughing.

He said Williams' response was, "Yeah, there's a lot more."

A wide-eyed Jefferson replied with an "Oh, wow."

Williams said the tricky part is that each play has different endings. For example, there is a 44 but also a 44 clear and a 44 slip. In the heat of the moment, he explained, that's tough to quickly process.

"It can be confusing," Williams said.

The Jazz hope to fine-tune what they've got out there already, so nothing new will be introduced for at least a little while.

"I don't think we're going to put anything else in right now," Williams said. "I think we're good. We've got to master these plays. It's just more wrinkles."

But Jefferson will be ready to tackle that learning challenge when it comes, too.

"It's a pass-first offense," the 25-year-old said. "Whatever I don't know yet, I'm pretty sure it's going to help me when I do find out about it."

Sloan likes the progress Jefferson is making, though. The 6-foot-10 center struggled in the season-opener with only six points, but he's hit double figures in scoring every game since then. The seven-year veteran's Jazz-high of 27 came last week against Toronto.

Jefferson, who played in a triangle offense at Minnesota last season, said he really likes how his pick-and-roll with Williams is progressing. He likes all of the Jazz offense, but that's probably his favorite play that's called right now.

"He's still learning," Sloan said. "He's trying really hard, and that's the fun part of it for us to watch him because he's trying to pick stuff up. It's tough the responsibilities he has to take on."

HE SAID IT: Williams was thrilled and relieved after scoring 30 points, including the game-winning layup, and logging a career-high 54 minutes in Saturday's double-overtime duel.

"This would have been a tough one if we would have lost it. I might have cried," he said. "I'm glad we won ... seriously."

MORE LEARNING AHEAD: There will be tough home games against the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers, unbelievable road games against the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder and a whole lot of who-knows-what in between.

Knowing those roller-coaster rides happen to all teams, Sloan is not surprised his restructured roster, even as talented as it is, has shown more inconsistency than invincibility while going 3-3.

"I don't know that we're struggling as much as people say," Sloan said after Saturday's double-overtime win over the Clippers.

There have been struggles. The Jazz gave up 21 offensive rebounds and only scored 75 points in an ugly loss at Golden State. They then came out as flat as the Utah football team against TCU while falling behind by 18 in the first half at home Saturday.

"I know that things don't flow as well for us as I think they will eventually. The thing is, just keep playing," Sloan said. "My biggest concern is when we don't come out and compete, you get concerned about that."

Sloan noted that the Jazz started off 2-4 last season. The Jazz went on to win 53 games, tied for the best record in the Northwest Division and earned an exhilarating playoff victory over Denver minus key players.

Perhaps opening the door for optimism of a successful season is that the Jazz have more newcomers than last season and are missing arguably their best shooter in center Mehmet Okur (Achilles).

"Everyone said, 'Well, you should do that overnight,'" Sloan said. "But it takes a lot of work, and some times you don't have the kind of practices you need to try to improve on some of this stuff. It's on-the-job training."

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