Al Jefferson headed to Jazz

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- In their quest to get more athletic, faster and financially nimble, the Minnesota Timberwolves were looking to move power forward Al Jefferson's slow-it-down, low-post game and chunky contract.

The Utah Jazz were searching for a replacement for Carlos Boozer who can score and rebound on the block and divert some attention from star point guard Deron Williams on the perimeter.

They found the right match in each other.

The Timberwolves agreed to send Jefferson to the Jazz for two future first-round draft picks and center Kosta Koufos, the teams confirmed Tuesday evening. A person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it also included a traded player exception for salary-cap flexibility, but that was not included in the Timberwolves' announcement.

Jefferson averaged 17.1 points and 9.3 rebounds last season for the Timberwolves in his first year back from a major knee injury in February 2009. But the Wolves have signed center Darko Milicic, agreed to terms with center Nikola Pekovic and traded for Michael Beasley to reshape a small front line into a bigger, and sleeker, unit.

In the end, Jefferson was expendable. He and Paul Millsap will help fill a void created in Utah when Boozer went to Chicago.

"With the arrival of Michael Beasley, it would have been difficult to play Al the kind of minutes he deserves without jeopardizing the development of both Kevin Love and Michael," Timberwolves president David Kahn said in announcing the deal. "The first-round picks we receive plus the flexibility that we now have under the salary cap made this the right time to make what was a difficult decision."

Utah gained the exception in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Boozer to Chicago. Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor declined to comment when reached by phone Monday afternoon.

Jefferson came to the Timberwolves in 2007 as the main cog in the blockbuster deal that sent Kevin Garnett to Boston. He averaged 23.1 points and 11 rebounds in 50 games the following season before he blew out his right knee in 2009.

Jefferson was the last remaining player from that deal. Former general manager Kevin McHale was fond of Jefferson's footwork and wide array of low-post moves, the kind of old-school, back-to-the-basket game that worked so well for McHale as a Hall of Fame player in Boston.

The match looked promising at the beginning, with Jefferson signing a five-year, $65 million contract and averaging 21 points and 11.1 rebounds in his first season in Minnesota. He was pushing for the All-Star team in his second season, dominating offensively when he tore ligaments in his right knee in the final game before the break in New Orleans.

Now Jefferson's comeback has been relocated to Utah.

The Jazz needed to make a move after losing Boozer (five years, $75 million) and Kyle Korver (three years, $15 million) to the Bulls, two defections that will make this season more challenging for Williams.

The Jazz orchestrated a sign-and-trade deal with the Bulls for Boozer in exchange for roughly $14 million in value in this trade exception, allowing them to swing a deal just like the one they agreed to with Minnesota. Jefferson has three years and $42 million left on his contract, but the exception allows the Jazz to take on his salary without exceeding the cap. The Wolves would be able to use the exception to acquire another player.

The Jazz will also send Minnesota the conditional first-round pick it got from Memphis in the Ronnie Brewer trade, plus another future first-rounder.

The Timberwolves have been actively shopping Jefferson for a few weeks, waiting until bigger name power forwards like Boozer, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh and David Lee signed their contracts.

For all of his skill on offense, Jefferson has been a liability on defense, and his game is tailor-made for the half-court while coach Kurt Rambis wants his team to run.

Kahn was up front with Jefferson from the beginning, telling him that they were considering trading him but also saying they would not do so unless they got an offer they liked.

"I told him I admired him for his professionalism," Kahn said. "I hope it isn't awkward. I told him we would do what's best for him and best for us."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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