Utah Jazz: Jefferson close to goal of playing 82 games
NBA • After playing in 70 games, he’s got just 12 to go
Published: March 24, 2014 10:33AM
Updated: March 24, 2014 10:32AM
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Utah Jazz's Richard Jefferson (24) points upcourt after scoring against the Orlando Magic in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game on Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Richard Jefferson decided last October one of his goals this season was to play 82 games for his new team, the Utah Jazz.

Twelve to go.

Heading into Monday night’s game against Detroit at EnergySolutions Arena, Jefferson is the only player on the roster with perfect attendance.

Nobody else has played 70 games like the 33-year-old small forward.

“I’ve always been a guy who never really liked to miss games, even when I was younger and had some injuries,” Jefferson said. “They had to force me to sit out.”

A model of durability during his previous 12 seasons, Jefferson has played 82 games three times. He has played at least 80 games six times.

“I just try to take care of my body,” Jefferson said. “And blessings from God. You have to put that in there, too.”

Jefferson played only 56 games last season at Golden State, mostly because of a back injury. But he also didn’t play once when he was healthy and available for the first time in his career.

Jefferson used the disappointing year as motivation after being acquired by the Jazz

“My goal coming in wasn’t starting or scoring,” he said. “I just wanted to play in every single game because, as you get older, you don’t know how many more games you have left or what your [future] situation is going to be. So after setting that goal -- knowing a lot of things can happen -- it feels good to be close to it.”

According to Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, Jefferson has been a huge asset for the rebuilding Jazz.

“Tremendous,” he said. “... Practicing every day. Being the elder statesmen of this group. Gaining the respect of guys because he’s going through everything with them. The lessons they’ve learned from him will go a long way.”

Reeling Pistons have talent

It’s been an unexpectedly dismal season for Detroit, which expected to challenge for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference after acquiring high-scoring veterans Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.

The Pistons have lost 12 of their last 14 games, however. They have dropped five straight and won’t qualify for the playoffs.

Detroit is only 4-15 since interim head coach John Loyer took over from Mo Cheeks, who was fired in February.

“They have a lot of pieces,” said Corbin. “They are a dangerous team [with] some very good players. ... This is a team that can score in bunches at time. We have to make sure we play the right tempo.”

Center Andre Drummond has been a bright spot for the Pistons. Only 20 years old, he averages 13.2 points, 12.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots.

“He’s got size and athletic ability,” Corbin said. “I don’t know him, but he seems to be a young guy who works hard. ... Where he can be effective, he’s trying to stay in those spots more. It looks like he’s making great progress.”