Houston • Al Jefferson didn’t have big plans for All-Star Weekend. He was going home to southern Mississippi and would see people he wanted to see.
Then a tornado struck nearby Hattiesburg. On Saturday, the Jazz center spent his time with people he hadn’t even known.
In a video report published online by WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg, Jefferson could be seen visiting families in areas hit hardest by the tornado, which reportedly destroyed or damaged 800 homes.
Jefferson grew up in Prentiss, a small town 55 miles from Hattiesburg, a college city of 50,000 people. While no one was killed by the storm, it gutted sections of Hattiesburg.
“It took my breath away,” Jefferson told the news station. “I’m still kind of amazed just to see all of the damage that was done.”
So, like Jefferson does when his team’s offense has begun to lag, he decided to do something about it. WDAM reported Jefferson pledged to buy a new car for a teenage girl whose vehicle was destroyed by the tornado.
“It feels good, man,” Jefferson said. “It feels real good, especially when you’re able to do it. This time, everybody needs to come together and stick together and help each other out.”
Jefferson who makes $15 million this season in the final year of his contract with the Jazz, also hosts an offseason basketball camp for children and funded a scholarship endowment in honor of his late father.
“If I can just help someone get through this,” he said, “it makes me feel better and like I did my part.”
The Jazz were rumored Saturday to be in talks with the Los Angeles Clippers about a deal that would bring Eric Bledsoe to Utah while shipping free agent-to-be Paul Millsap to Southern California.
The potential trade was reported by ESPN.com.
Bledsoe would provide the point guard of the future the Jazz are seeking, and Millsap would give the Clippers front court depth for their playoff run. However, Millsap makes more than $5 million more than Bledsoe, meaning the Clippers would have to include other pieces to make the salaries match. Things would get tricky at that point for the Jazz, who would need to find a way to open roster spots. They currently carry 15 players under contract, which is the league maximum.
The voters back home
Jeremy Evans didn’t win the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday at the Toyota Center, falling to Toronto’s Terrence Ross in a popular vote.
Evans jumped over a portrait of himself dunking that he painted in the week and a half before the contest, and then over a seated Dahntay Jones for his final performance. However, Evans garnered only 42 percent of the vote.
While not all of the viewers favored Evans, his teammates certainly did. Enes Kanter, Millsap, Gordon Hayward, DeMarre Carroll, Kevin Murphy, Jamaal Tinsley and Derrick Favors all tweeted their support for Evans. After the result was announced, Carroll was the most vocal dissenter.
“Are you serious???” he wrote on the social networking site. “I thought the dunk contest was about bein CREATIVE.”