Utah Jazz point guard Earl Watson wants to make Big Al Jefferson a viral sensation.
After watching his teammate outscore, outrebound and outpass the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, Watson joked that his new goal is to get Big Al in the All-Star Skills Challenge next year.
Big Al probably won't be in the Skills Challenge anytime soon, but the Jazz still love when he's pasing as he did on Monday in Cleveland (Getty Images).
But on a night like Monday, when Big Al nearly posted his first career triple double, Watson's idea wasn't looking so crazy.
"I'm trying to get Al Jefferson in the skills challenge," Watson joked. "Did you see him out there? That's why he's my client. I'm going viral with the campaign."
Al was the man of the hour in Cleveland recording game highs in points (25), rebounds (13) and assists (7) to lead Utah to a 109-100 victory over the Cavaliers.
The points and rebounds gave No. 25 his 18th double-double of the year, but perhaps the most impressive part of his performance was that the big man was number one in assists as well, a bracket he doesn't typically lead.
Big Al said that learning when to pass out of the post — when a double team comes to meet him — is one of the adjustments he's made to his game and it worked out well on Monday.
"I know if I continue to pass the ball and get guys open shots it will open up for me," he told KFAN. "They kept double teaming me all night and I just kept passing it out and they got shots."
When Big Al joined the Jazz in 2010, passing was not his strongest suit. He struggled to evade double teams and find an open teammate on the perimeter. But while No. 25 will never be confused with a point guard, he's come a long way during nearly two seasons with the Jazz.
"He's a willing passer," Coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He's doing a really good job for us. We're going to need him to continue to do that. We're going to need the guys to continue to cut and read where the openings are so he can make the right passes."
Before coming to Utah, Al played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, where, he said, he didn't have much option to pass. No. 25 noted that if he didn't shoot the ball, nothing good was likely to happen. As he demonstrated Monday night, that's not the case in SLC and the Jazz do well when the big man picks his spots, then sets up his teammates.
"In an offense like this, a big man like me should average no [fewer] than three, four assists a game," he said. "Guys are doing a better job of moving because we used to just get stuck, me with the ball and guys kind of sitting, waiting, watching, and that forced me to go make a move or whatever. Now guys [are] cutting because teams [are] just watching me."
Over the last month, Al, who only averages 1.3 assists per game for his career has had at least two dimes nine times and at least three six times. After Monday's win, teammate Paul Millsap pointed to the recent rise in Al's assist numbers as a great sign for the Jazz going forward.
"It starts with him. He knows that," Millsap said. "When he's passing the ball out and getting other guys involved, we're a much better team."
Passing out of those double teams can only help No. 25, who knows that if he continues to be a more willing passer and his teammates continue to knock down the shots he gets them, teams will be forced to play him more honestly, one-on-one. Of course Big Al does admit that he often has to remind himself to assess his options each time he touches the ball. But it's becoming more of a habit because the players around it have it in them to succeed.
"Now I've got guys around me, and it's common sense. A double team: pass it out." Al said. "Sometimes I get in that moment, and I feel like I can still score on a double team. But the best way to do it is just pass the ball out and my teammates will get me open."
Big Al celebrates a much-needed win for the Jazz (Getty Images).
Always humble, Al did nothing to hide the satisfaction of a great game and great win, but was careful not to let his smile or the praises blind him from the reality of the games ahead.
"This is a game that we know we had to win," No. 25 told the SLT. "Every game from here on out, we have to win. We're trying to stay in the playoff race. We just have to do it. We talk about it all the time, but we just have to get it done."
When asked if he thought the Jazz had turned a corner with the level of play demonstrated in their last two games, Al made it clear that there are no guarantees in basketball and every win must be earned one at a time.
"Well it's one game, it's only game. We got to build off this," he said. "We need to continue to work and take this game as a lesson that if we go out and play the game how we're supposed to play, we will win games. That's the way we have to look at it and take it one game at a time."
Still on the road, the Jazz will take on the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday. The game can be seen on ROOT Sports at 5 p.m. MST.