Utah Jazz: Jefferson likely to return from injury after three games in ‘dark place’
By Bill Oram
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Mar 07 2013 03:19PM
Chicago • Al Jefferson said he felt "useless" as a pesky sprained ankle kept him sidelined for the past three games.
The Jazz’s leading scorer was reduced to a spectator for cruel back-to-back losses this week. One in overtime, the other after a layup did a bossa nova dance with the rim before popping out.
Now, Jefferson is on the verge of returning, saying he is "pretty confident" he will play against the Bulls on Friday in Chicago.
While the losses didn’t help Jefferson’s spirit, the Jazz center said he was already in a funk due to missing time, something injuries have rarely forced him to do since he tore his ACL while with the Timberwolves.
Jefferson leads the Jazz with 17.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
And while the Jazz eagerly espouse the virtues of a team, the life of an injured NBA player is a solitary one.
"It sucks, man," Jefferson said. "I felt useless, attitude’s messed up. Didn’t really feel like talking to nobody. I just go into this dark place because if you ain’t playing basketball — for me, I can’t speak for anybody else — I love it."
In three seasons with the Jazz, Jefferson has missed just nine games. In 2010-11, his first year in Utah, he played all 82 games.
"I take a lot of pride in not missing games," he said.
Williams’ new role
Marvin Williams said coach Tyrone Corbin spoke to him earlier in the week about the possibility of moving the struggling veteran to the bench. On Wednesday, he pulled the trigger.
Williams, acquired in an offseason trade for Devin Harris, was replaced by DeMarre Carroll to start Wednesday’s loss in Cleveland. Corbin has said he hopes the move brings the Jazz more energy.
"I told him I was fine with it," Williams said. "He’s never going to hear any complaints out of me. Whatever can help this team win, we’re on a fine line in that eighth spot, so we’re trying to make the playoffs and if this will help us make the playoffs I’m all for it."
Williams has a player option on his contract at the end of the season and could choose to stay with the Jazz or enter free agency in the summer. He has been lauded within the Jazz locker room as the consummate teammate. He refused opportunities to lament his benching.
"I’ve been on the bench before," said Williams, the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft. "I’ve been a starter before, so whenever you get in there you’ve just got to make the most of your minutes, and that’s what I’ve got to do when I get out there."
When acquired by the Jazz, Williams was expected to present a reliable 3-point shooting option, as well as some agility and length in the frontcourt. But that hasn’t panned out in Utah.
His 7.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 40.8 percent field-goal shooting are all career lows.
Against the Cavaliers, Williams spent most of his 14 minutes playing backup power forward, although those minutes will likely vanish once Jefferson returns and Derrick Favors resumes his role as the first big man off the bench.
Still, Williams said he is up for the challenge of playing power forward.
"I’m not a guy with an ego," he said. "I’m not an NFL quarterback."