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Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson expects to return versus Bulls

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Center Al Jefferson has agreed to a multiyear contract with the Charlotte Bobcats, bringing an end to his three-year tenure with the Utah Jazz. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

By Bill Oram

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Mar 07 2013 12:12PM
Updated Mar 8, 2013 09:54PM

Chicago • Al Jefferson said he is "pretty confident" he will play Friday against the Bulls after a sprained ankle sidelined him for the last three games.

The Jazz were 1-2 in that stretch and have lost five of six overall as the Western Conference playoff picture gets more and more muddled.

Jefferson said he felt strong enough to play in Wednesday’s loss to the Cavaliers, but that the training staff convinced him to take one more night off and go through Thursday’s practice, at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

After the 90 minute team workout, all signs point toward Jefferson returning.

"He looked good," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I think we’ll see how he looks tonight and tomorrow in shoot around and see if he’s a go tomorrow, but he looked good in practice. So far he said he didn’t feel anything in his ankle, so we feel good about it."

Assuming Jefferson returns and the rest of the team stays healthy, the Jazz will have their full roster — minus absentee Raja Bell — available for the first time since Dec. 22, when Mo Williams injured his thumb.

"We got our full team back for the first time in 30-some games," Jefferson said, "so that’s a plus. We got two tough games coming up that we’ve got to win. We let two tough ones get away so we got to bounce back and try to finish 2-2 on this trip."

Jefferson leads the Jazz with 17.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Missing three games and watching his team miss the last two were difficult for Jefferson.

"It’s tough man," he said. "I take a lot of pride in not missing games."

In three seasons since being traded to Utah, Jefferson has missed just nine games.

The Jazz were a couple of layups away from beating both Milwaukee and Cleveland on this road trip, and Jefferson’s absence allowed both Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors to emerge as ready-now players for the Jazz.

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz

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