If Al Jefferson were Utah’s general manager, he wouldn’t trade Al Jefferson — or any of the team’s other big men.
One day after San Antonio eliminated the Jazz from the playoffs, Jefferson said, “I’m here to do my job. It’s not my decision. But if I had my way, everybody would come back. We have a great group of guys.”
Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Jefferson create a logjam at center and power forward.
The Jazz hope Favors and Kanter become foundation-type players, so the question of trading Jefferson or Millsap will be raised during the offseason.
Jefferson thinks the Jazz should proceed with caution.
“In my opinion, you need bigs to win a championship,” he said. “You need a lot of them.”
Asked which player surprised him the most this season, coach Tyrone Corbin said Kanter, who did not play at Kentucky last year because of eligibility issues.
Still, the Jazz selected Kanter with the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft. He averaged 3.5 points and four rebounds in 33 games during his rookie season.
“I thought he made tremendous strides,” Corbin said.
Besides not playing at Kentucky, Kanter did not benefit from a summer league or full training camp because of the lockout.
“It was really hard,” he said, “because I couldn’t play the whole year last year. I just start playing in the NBA — with all the best players. It was tough for me because I was kind of rusty. But I feel next year will be so much better.”
Kanter does not turn 20 until May 20. He will play in the Orlando Summer League in July. So will Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Favors, according to GM Kevin O’Connor.
Howard, Tinsley want to return
The Jazz’s gamble to sign baggage-toting veterans Josh Howard and Jamaal Tinsley paid off this season.
Both played well. Neither was involved in any off-the-court controversy. Both would like to return.
“Jamaal and Josh were not only model citizens but good examples of someone who got a second chance and performed pretty well,” O’Connor said.
Will they return next season?
“You never commit to anything because you’re always trying to improve your team,” O’Connor said. “But they didn’t do anything to prevent them from coming back, let’s put it that way.”
Said Tinsley: “I would love to come back. ... Good fans. Great organization. Good players that like each other. Just a classy organization. That’s what I wanted to be a part of.”
Watson still on crutches
Earl Watson, who remains on crutches because of late-season knee surgery, plans to attend the Orlando Summer League.
“They probably won’t let me play, but I’ll start working out,” Watson said. “Right now, it’s one step at a time. My first step is to learn how to walk. That’s big for me — to walk. I’ve been on crutches for a month. I’ve been like a gymnast — constantly helping myself up.”
The Jazz earned $194,016 of the NBA’s $13 million playoff pool for reaching the first round against San Antonio. If Utah’s portion was divided into 15 shares, each would be worth $12,934.