Jazz center Al Jefferson is an elite low-post scorer — a skill in high demand around the NBA.
He doesn’t celebrate his 28th birthday until January, either, meaning he should be entering the prime of his career.
So why is his future so uncertain?
Call it the business of professional basketball.
The Jazz open training camp Tuesday and, when he reports, Jefferson becomes one of eight players on the roster with an expiring contract.
Therein lies the uncertainty of his future.
Utah has a couple of options with Jefferson, who is scheduled to make $15 million this season.
The Jazz can re-sign him and make him part of their long-term foundation, or he could be traded for new pieces to the puzzle.
Another possibility: Utah clears salary-cap space by letting Jefferson play out the season and walk away as an unrestricted free agent, although that seems unlikely.
“I haven’t even thought about all that,” Jefferson said. “My main goal is just improve on last year. It’s not something I need to worry about. The only thing I’m worried about is helping this team make the playoffs.”
Jefferson helped the Jazz reach the postseason last season as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. He averaged 19.2 points and 9.6 rebounds.
In the playoffs, however, San Antonio swept Utah, in part by swarming Jefferson and limiting his effectiveness. The Spurs gambled the Jazz could not beat them from the perimeter, and they were right.
Under duress, Jefferson shot only 41.5 percent in the lopsided series. He journeyed to the free-throw line four times in the four games and, as a team, the Jazz were completely outplayed.
“It was most definitely a wake-up call,” Jefferson said. “At first, everybody was excited just to make the playoffs. But once we got there we played the best team in the West, in my opinion. And it was a definite wake-up call that we had a long ways to go.”
Jefferson spent most of the summer getting ready for the new season — his third in Utah.
Acquired from Minnesota on July 23, 2010, for Kosta Koufos and two first-round draft picks, he worked extensively at the Peak Performance Project in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“Basically, all I did was stay at P3,” he said, referring to the strength and conditioning facility. “I got in some good work and some other guys came for a while. ... It was a great chance to work together — a fun offseason for everybody.”
Jefferson declared he is in “great shape” for the start of camp.
“We want to get in there and get the rust off,” he said. “We have a lot of new guys and we want everybody to get on the right page — get a feel for each other.”
Once again, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Jefferson appear set in coach Tyrone Corbin’s big-man rotation.
The Jazz’s most significant offseason moves involved perimeter players Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Randy Foye.
Executive vice president of basketball Kevin O’Connor and new general manager Dennis Lindsey acquired those three veterans to address Utah’s need for outside shooting.
If they consistently knock down shots, Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Foye could make Jefferson’s life on the block less strenuous and more productive.
“The GMs did a hell of a job improving our team,” Jefferson said. “I feel a lot better. [The Spurs] taught us, once you get to the playoffs, it’s a whole new ballgame. It’s not like the regular season. ...
“But I give a shout-out to the GMs. We took big steps in the offseason. Big steps. I feel really good going into training camp — that we can take last year’s experience and be better.”
Al Jefferson’s career statistics,season-by-season
Season Team Games Points Rebs. Assists
2004-05 Boston 71 6.7 4.4 0.3
2005-06 Boston 59 7.9 5.1 0.5
2006-07 Boston 69 16.0 11.0 1.3
2007-08 Minnesota 82 21.0 11.1 1.4
2008-09 Minnesota 50 23.1 11.0 1.6
2009-10 Minnesota 76 17.1 9.3 1.8
2010-11 Utah 82 18.6 9.7 1.8
2011-12 Utah 61 19.2 9.6 2.2