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Utah Jazz notes: Jefferson getting chance to become starter

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(Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune) Richard Jefferson puts up a shot in the second quarter as the Utah Jazz faced the Portland Trailblazers at EnergySolutions Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. Portland beat Utah 99-92.

By Steve Luhm

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Oct 18 2013 02:06PM
Updated Feb 14, 2014 11:36PM

With the regular-season opener still 12 days away, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin says it’s too early to commit to a starting lineup.

In the preseason, however, Corbin is giving veteran small forward Richard Jefferson every chance to win a job.

"He’s shown himself well," Corbin said. "It’s an option that we do have."

Jefferson has played in three of Utah’s four exhibition games. He has started twice and averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes.

"We wanted him to come into great shape, and he’s done that," Corbin said. "He’s learning his teammates and they’re learning him. He’s getting a feel for what he can do with this group. So it’s been encouraging."

If Jefferson proves capable of starting, Corbin would be able to bring Alec Burks off the bench as a second-unit scorer.

When veteran Marvin Williams returns from injury, he could join Burks and make Utah’s bench more formidable than if either one has to starts.

"He understands who he is at this point in his career," Corbin said about Jefferson. "He sees the opportunity to be with a young group — a new group — and finding a niche with these guys."

Injury bug

Six players missed Friday morning’s practice because of injuries.

Trey Burke (fractured finger), Brandon Rush (knee surgery) and Williams (Achilles surgery) remain sidelined while rehabbing.

Also missing practice were Jeremy Evans (shoulder), Rudy Gobert (shoulder) and Lester Hudson (ankle).

Burke, the Jazz’s rookie point guard, underwent surgery Tuesday to repair his broken right index finger. He was scheduled to visit the Jazz’s practice facility Friday.

"His spirits seem to be fine," Corbin said. "He’s progressing with his rehab now."

Burke will work on the treadmill and stationary bike to try to maintain his conditioning.

His finger will be in a split and/or cast for another 21/2 weeks, when his situation will be reevaluated. He will return to the court "when the doctors say he can run without creating swelling on the hand," Corbin said.

Favorable review

Speaking of conditioning, Corbin likes the way Enes Kanter continues to improve after offseason shoulder surgery.

Kanter scored 23 points in Wednesday night’s 99-92 preseason loss to Portland at EnergySolutions Arena.

"He’s working his way back into basketball shape," Corbin said. "As he gets himself into basketball shape, I think his play will become more consistent on the offensive end."

Said Kanter: "I’m going out there 100 percent. I’m not thinking about my shoulder. It feels 100 percent."

Kanter made his first eight shots against Portland and scored 16 points in the opening 10 minutes of his best performance by far in the preseason.

"Before the game," he said, "the coaches gave me a lot of confidence. They said, ‘It’s OK. You didn’t play [for] five or six months.’ ... When the coaches gave me that confidence and my teammates gave me confidence, I said, ‘OK, I have to do this.’ "

luhm@sltrib.com

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