MIAMI, FL - MAY 01: Al Jefferson #25 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Luol Deng #9 of the Miami Heat during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 1, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo
AP Photo
July 01, 2016

Larry Bird has been trying to mold the Indiana Pacers into a faster, sleeker unit under new coach Nate McMillan.

He also knows the value of having a reliable offensive threat in the post to get buckets when the game inevitably slows down, and that's where Al Jefferson comes in.

The Pacers agreed to terms with Jefferson on a three-year deal worth $30 million, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract cannot be signed until July 7.

In a league that has steadily gotten smaller and more versatile, the 31-year-old Jefferson is a throwback to the crafty, dominant post players of Bird's era. And Big Al has Celtics green all over his game.

Jefferson started his career with Bird's old team before being traded to Minnesota, where he was tutored by Bird's former teammate and Celtics Hall of Famer Kevin McHale, one of the best post players to ever play. Jefferson has exhibited some of the same trickery and creativity on the block that McHale made famous for those title-winning Celtics teams, and his unique skill set has helped keep him in demand as he has weathered some significant injuries.

The 31-year-old missed significant time for the Charlotte Hornets last season with a knee injury and also had to sit out five games for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

He averaged 12.0 points and 6.4 rebounds in 47 games for the Hornets, who also lost Jeremy Lin in free agency on Friday.

Jefferson joined the Hornets three years ago and was named third-team All-NBA in his first season under coach Steve Clifford.

He was plagued by foot injures the next two seasons.

After the Hornets lost in Game 7 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Jefferson said he wanted to return to Charlotte to finish his career.

''There is nowhere I would rather be,'' Jefferson said on May 2. ''The things that we have done with this franchise the last three years have been amazing and I want to continue to see it through. But there is a business side to it, but I would like to end my career here.''

Clearly things changed when the market opened on Friday. But in a dizzying 12 hours that have seen some eye-popping contracts handed out, paying $10 million per year to a proven low-post scorer whose game should age well was by no means a stretch.

The Pacers have already added point guard Jeff Teague and forward Thaddeus Young via trades to bring some of that quickness and versatility that the modern game demands.

Now Jefferson will bring some of the muscle and toughness that could prove valuable come playoff time.


AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte contributed to this report.

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