Jefferson is Player of the Week
The phone call many around the league thought Al Jefferson would receive this year finally came Tuesday.
Coach Tyrone Corbin told the Jazz center he had been traded.
Then, Corbin broke character and, as Jefferson told it, confessed, "That's right, we can't trade you now."
But this was more than just an April Fools' Day joke aimed by the coach at his top scorer. Corbin was calling to say congratulations. Jefferson on Monday received his fifth career Player of the Week honor after leading the Jazz to a 4-0 record and getting them back into playoff position.
"He's a huge part of the success that we've been having here of late," Corbin said. "Along with his teammates, they're doing a great job of understanding where we are and how we have to play to be effective every night."
Jefferson earned the Western Conference honor by averaging 19.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals in wins over Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and Brooklyn.
"It caught me off guard so bad," Jefferson said. "I've been so focused on just trying to get into the playoffs, I haven't really thought about our record this week and what I averaged this week."
Entering Monday's game against the Blazers, Jefferson averaged 17.4 points, 9.1 rebounds through 74 games.
Corbin said Jefferson's contribution to the Jazz has not been limited to offense, where he's known to shine. Instead, he said, Jefferson should receive more credit for his oft-maligned defense.
"For us," Corbin said, "we see where he's giving the effort. Where he may not be as successful in some areas, he's trying. ... I think he's in the right place for the most part, it's just sometimes his speed can catch up with him."
Jefferson was also named Player of the Week in April last year, as the Jazz made their playoff push. He previously won the award twice while with the Minnesota Timberwolves and once in Boston.
Portland point guard Damian Lillard made his third appearance at EnergySolutions Arena since being drafted sixth overall last spring out of Weber State.
The likely Rookie of the Year is regularly asked about his small alma mater, but this time there was a news hook. The Wildcats, whom Lillard was never able to lead to the NCAA Tournament, will play in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship game Tuesday against East Carolina.
"They are having a great season," Lillard said. "I'm not surprised by it at all because I was there with those guys. When they recruited the new guys, I was there. I knew what they were capable of and I'm happy for them."
Weber State can probably expect to see a boost in visibility and recruiting not only due to advancing in the CIT, but also due to Lillard's success.
"He's been great," Corbin said. "You have to admire the guy coming from the area here, at Weber State, and having the success that he had after staying at the school for four years. ... To see him have the success coming from Weber State in the NBA does a lot for the schools in this area."