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The Pacers Foundation’s annual golf outing at Brickyard Crossing happened Wednesday, which meant a chance for major sponsors and media to hang out with past players, Indianapolis, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
Robert Scheer/IndyStar

INDIANAPOLIS – Al Jefferson looked different Wednesday, compared to April when the Indiana Pacers’ season ended. There is less of Jefferson. Quite a bit less.

The veteran big man was asked how much weight he had lost.

“Since I signed here last year, 40 pounds,” said Jefferson at the Pacers golf outing at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course. “Since the season, 20 (pounds).”

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Jefferson hopes the change will make him a more effective player, coming off his most disappointing season. After 10 straight years of averaging at least 10 points per game, Jefferson averaged 8.1 points and a career-low 4.2 rebounds. He saw no playing time when the Pacers were swept out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers, leaving him with plenty to think about.

“I try not to look back on it, because it’s not something I want to look back at,” Jefferson said. “I had to go into the offseason with a bad taste in my mouth. I did something about it. If I had been satisfied with last season, it shows the type of person I am. I know I’m not that type of person. I didn’t think I came in ready. I didn’t think I was motivated. Whatever the reason is, it got me to where I am now. In a way, I’m glad it happened.”

Part of the reason for Jefferson’s diet change was a bad meal he ate several months ago. That convinced him to eliminate meat from his diet.

“I’m a vegetarian now,” said Jefferson. “I got sick eating some home fried chicken. That’s my favorite. I just gave it up. See how long I can do it. I’m not saying it’s forever.”

Asked if chicken was what he missed most, Jefferson smiled.

“Man, you’re making my mouth water,” Jefferson said. “I love chicken. Can we not talk about chicken?”

Jefferson said he was down to 275 pounds, and wanted to reach his rookie weight of 265. To earn consistent playing time at backup center behind Myles Turner, Jefferson knows he must show the Pacers’ coaching staff that he has the quickness to defend big men on the perimeter, and to mesh with the faster tempo they hope to employ.

Training camp begins next week, and coach Nate McMillan is encouraged that Jefferson is in better shape. But playing time must be earned.

“The game has changed since he had success,” said McMillan. “It has really changed for the five man. The game was more of a half-court game even two, three years ago. The bigs now are more out on the perimeter.” 

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Jefferson said he was looking forward to the challenge of showing that he can adapt, entering his 14th NBA season.

“When you’re out here defending these guys who play around the 3-point line, you got to be up and ready to move,” Jefferson said. “Ready to defend that pick-and-roll. That’s big in this league right now. That’s one of the things me and Nate talked about going into the offseason.

Boomer greets golfers at the Pacers Foundation outing at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.  (Photo: Robert Scheer/IndyStar)

“It’s all about being dedicated. I feel a lot better. I’m just taking a page out of Tim Duncan’s book. I’m 32, and I know when he got in his early 30s, he started slimming down and took it to another level.”

During recent scrimmages with teammates, they have come away impressed with Jefferson’s hustle.

”The big fella’s been working,” said forward Thaddeus Young. “He actually dived on the floor for a loose ball. I was like, ‘Wow.’ I had to go shake his hand after that one.’’

Jefferson also has fallen in love with the Pacers’ new practice and training facility, where he will not mind spending time.

“Best one I’ve ever seen,” said Jefferson. “I’m thinking about putting a bedroom in there and just living there.”

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St. Vincent Center, which houses training facilities for Pacers Sports and Entertainment, as well as a sport-centered St. Vincent facilities, is ready for business, Thursday, August 24, 2017.
Robert Scheer/IndyStar

The Pacers hope last season was a wakeup call for Jefferson, who began his NBA career straight out of high school as a Boston Celtics first-round pick. The Pacers are a young team establishing a new core after trading Paul George, but Jefferson believes he still fits in. He believes less girth will mean more production.

“I’m motivated now,” Jefferson said. “I think a lot of people forget I’m still a young guy. I’ve just been around forever. I do want to play as long as I can. Because I don’t know no other job that’s going to be as fun as this one. I gave up my supermodeling goals. I think I’m going to stick with this.”

Follow IndyStar reporter Clifton Brown on Twitter: @CliftonGBrown.