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Utah Jazz: Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson look ahead after trade deadline

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Paul Millsap

By Steve Luhm

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Feb 22 2013 01:39PM
Updated May 21, 2013 11:34PM

As the minutes before the NBA trade deadline passed, Paul Millsap was working out and Al Jefferson napped.

Just another day in the NBA.

Because of their expiring contracts and immediate help they could provide other teams, Millsap and Jefferson were considered the Jazz’s most enticing trade bait.

Management decided to stand pat, however, so Millsap and Jefferson returned to practice Friday morning — the first step in a 27-game stretch run that will determine if Utah makes the playoffs.

"Let’s go back to work," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We are who we are and where we are. It’s just good to get past the [deadline] date so we can move forward and keep trying to get better."

Corbin knows what Millsap and Jefferson endured in recent days. During his 16-year NBA career, he was part of eight trades, including two involving Utah.

In 1991, the Jazz sent Thurl Bailey and a second-round draft pick to Minnesota for Corbin. In 1994, the Jazz traded Corbin and a second-round pick to Atlanta for Adam Keefe.

"I’ve been there before, and it can be a little nerve-wracking," Corbin said. "You try not to pay attention to it — as much as you can — but it’s there."

Corbin did not talk to Millsap or Jefferson on Thursday as the deadline approached.

"Like me," he explained, "they were getting tired of hearing about it."

Instead, Jazz executive vice president Kevin O’Connor and general manager Dennis Lindsey kept Corbin in the loop "as much as I needed to be" until deciding against making any last-minute trades.

"Y’all were more worried about it than me," Jefferson told reporters. "I was sleeping. … If it happened, it happened."

Asked if he was relieved the deadline had passed, Jefferson laughed.

"The only relief I see is y’all can’t ask any more questions about it," he said. "… We have the same attitude today as we had two days ago: Try to win as many [games] as we can and go to the playoffs."

Millsap had a similar reaction about remaining in Utah.

"It’s exciting when your name gets tossed about like that," he said. "At the same time, it can be nerve-wracking. … I’m relieved that’s over with — the whole process."

Together, Millsap and Jefferson have been the key components to the Jazz’s midseason surge into playoff contention.

Millsap has scored in double figures in 20 of the last 23 games. In the last 10 games, he averaged 17.1 points and 6.8 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Jefferson has reached double figures in 27 straight games, going back to Dec. 22. During Utah’s current three-game winning streak, he averages 22.3 points on 31-for-58 shooting.

No wonder teammate Randy Foye was happy that management didn’t trade Millsap, Jefferson or anyone else.

"We’ve got a great group of guys — some hard-working guys who understand what our goal is and where we want to be," Foye said.

Of course, keeping Millsap and Jefferson means Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter will continue coming off the bench. But Corbin isn’t worried about retarding the growth of two young players considered future franchise cornerstones.

"They are going to play," he said. "They may not be getting all the minutes that Al and Paul get, but that’s part of being on a team, growing and having a chance to win.

"Guys will have opportunities. As we’ve said before, ‘Just be ready to play the minutes you get and put your best foot forward when you’re on the floor.’ "

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