MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have agreed to send power forward Al Jefferson to the Utah Jazz for two future first-round draft picks and the salary-cap trade exception, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been officially announced. 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. He will help fill a void in Utah created when Carlos Boozer went to Chicago. 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 the 50 games before he was injured in 2009. Utah gained the trade exception in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Boozer to Chicago. The deal marks a complete and final break from the Kevin McHale-Kevin Garnett era in Minnesota. Garnett is the lone star the Timberwolves have ever had, spending 12 years in the Twin Cities and leading the Wolves to the Western Conference finals in 2004. But as the years wore on, McHale, the former coach and GM, decided to cut ties with Garnett in 2007 and rebuild. He sent KG to Boston for Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff and two draft picks in a blockbuster deal that helped the Celtics helped form the bedrock of a team that has reached the NBA finals in two of the last three years. Jefferson was the last remaining player from that deal. McHale fell in love with 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 in his Boston days. Things looked promising at the outset, with Jefferson signing a five-year, $65 million contract and averaging 21.0 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. It’s been a slow, steady climb back for Jefferson, one that will have to continue in 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 certainly games more challenging for point guard Deron Williams. Jefferson, who played center for most of last season with the Timberwolves, will fortify the front line and give Williams a legitimate and reliable threat on the low block to take some of the defensive pressure off of him on the perimeter. Utah orchestrated a sign-and-trade with the Bulls for Boozer so they could get some $14 million in a trade exception for a deal just like the one they have agreed to with Minnesota. Jefferson has three years and $42 million left on his contract. The Jazz will send Minnesota the conditional first-round pick it got from Memphis in the Ronnie Brewer trade plus a future first-rounder. The Timberwolves have been shopping Jefferson for a few weeks now, holding out for the right deal until bigger name power forwards like Boozer, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh and David Lee signed contracts. For all of his skill on offense, Jefferson has been a liability on defense for one of the worst defensive teams in the league. The Wolves 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 that the team hopes will be able to get out and run the break much more effectively for coach Kurt Rambis. Timberwolves president David 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 during a conference call on Monday to discuss the Beasley trade. “I hope it isn’t awkward. I told him we would do what’s best for him and best for us.”
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