Indiana Pacers

Al Jefferson changes diet, trims down in the offseason

It’s easy to understand how Al Jefferson kept it quiet. He’s not on social media, he didn’t spend the offseason in Indianapolis, and he wasn’t hanging out at summer league or the 3-on-3 tournament.

But it’s obvious that Jefferson lost serious weight since he was last around in April.

If not for the organization signing 37-year-old Damien Wilkins (to provide veteran guidance to a youthful team), the 32-year-old would be the elder statesman roaming the locker room. He was voted Teammate of the Year last season, his first in Indy.

This year, that begins by first taking care of oneself.

“He looks incredible, man,” starting center Myles Turner said Wednesday morning at the Pacers’ annual golf outing. “I think he’s dropped 40 pounds. When you see him you’ll see [how] he’s really trimmed down a lot. He’s moving well, he’s running the floor.”

From what I’ve been told, 40 pounds is an exaggeration. Still, it’s impressive nonetheless.

“Oh man. Night and day [difference],” one team staffer said. “He’s even talking different.”

This isn’t the first time Jefferson has dropped 20-plus pounds during the offseason. He felt the need to do it in 2015, entering his final year in Charlotte.

Slimming down from his listed 289 pounds, thanks in part to becoming a vegetarian, was necessary once again after he had his worst season statistically since the 2005-06 season in Boston, his second year in the league. He averaged 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, playing just 14 minutes per game.

“Al has focused on getting himself in shape and losing some weight because the game has changed,” said coach Nate McMillan. “The game has changed since he had success. It’s really changed for the five-man. Al has been a guy that has been a player that can establish the post game and the game was more of a half-court game even two, three years ago.

[VIDEO: Nate McMillan looks ahead to the season]

“The bigs now are out on the perimeter … so you have to be able to defend out on the perimeter, defend the pick-and-rolls and defend the three-point line as these bigs have to do nowadays. And that’s one of the things that he’s tried to focus on: Losing weight, getting faster, being able to guard and rebound and do the things that we need that five-man to do.”

The 2017-18 season is a prove-it year for much of the roster, including Jefferson. His contract for next season, worth $10 million, is not fully guaranteed.

Big Al will also be sporting a different number for his 14th season in the NBA. After wearing No. 7 last year because Rakeem Christmas owned 25, Jefferson has changed back to 25 — which he wore in Minnesota, Utah, and Charlotte. (25 was retired by Boston for K.C. Jones.)

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