2:24pm: Aldridge has confirmed that Jefferson will join the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in China (Twitter link).
12:00pm: Veteran NBA big man Al Jefferson is opting to play in China for the upcoming season, a source tells TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link). According to Aldridge, Jefferson had an opportunity to rejoin the Pacers after being waived by the team earlier this month, but was offered a “nice payday” overseas.
Shortly after releasing him, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard revealed that Jefferson was mulling the possibility of playing international ball in 2018/19. While Aldridge’s report doesn’t specify which team Jefferson has lined up a deal with, a report earlier in July indicated that the big man was expected to sign with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Jefferson, 33, has averaged 15.7 PPG and 8.4 RPG over the course of a productive 14-year NBA career, but played a career-low 13.4 minutes per contest for Indiana last season, appearing in just 36 games. Although the veteran’s per-minute production was still strong, he wasn’t a major part of the Pacers’ plans going forward, and his $10MM salary for 2018/19 was only guaranteed for $4MM, making it an easy decision to cut him.
Assuming Jefferson finalizes a deal with a Chinese club and spends the 2018/19 campaign overseas, he could return stateside in the spring, since the CBA season ends before the NBA’s does. This past April, for instance, Ty Lawson returned from a stint with the Shandong Golden Stars and immediately signed with the Wizards, claiming a regular rotation role with Washington during the team’s brief playoff run.