On Saturday afternoon, the Utah Jazz found out Thabo Sefolosha would be sidelined indefinitely with an MCL injury in his right knee.
On Sunday — following a marathon three-hour practice — Jazz players reacted to losing one of their most important teammates.
“He’s the one who’s taught me a lot of the little things,” Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell said.
“Part of the reason I’m in the NBA is because of Thabo,” Jazz veteran Jonas Jerebko said.
If Sunday’s interviews illustrate anything, it’s how revered a figure Sefolosha is in the Jazz locker room, and how much of an impact he’s made on his teammates, older and younger.
Injuries happen all the time. And the Jazz vow to move on without Sefolosha. At the same time, there was a sense of sadness among the Jazz with Sefolosha. It was more than losing a teammate. It was like losing a big brother.
“It’s tough with a guy like Thabo,” Mitchell said. “I looked to him when I came here and still to this day for defensive advice, and life and the league. To see that happen to a guy who’s worked so hard, it’s tough, because he does so many different things. So personally, it’s tough to see that with Thabo. But with his work ethic, he’ll be back faster than ever. We’re all supportive, we all saw him and talked to him yesterday.”
Officially, Sefolosha’s injury still listed as an MCL sprain, and he’s still gathering information on a potential surgery. His agent will come into Salt Lake City on Monday, and a final decision could potentially be made then.
At minimum, however, the Jazz expect Sefolosha to be out long-term. And if Sefolosha indeed decides to undergo surgery, he will miss the remainder of the season and at least six months.
“It sucks to see a teammate and a friend go down,” Jerebko said. “I’ve been in that situation before. It’s time for other people to step up, obviously. We have a lot of good players on this team, so I’m not worried. But first and foremost, our thoughts are with Thabo.”
Despite Sefolosha’s loss, the Jazz are close to getting some pieces back into their lineup. Raul Neto, who has missed the past month, was a full participant in Sunday’s practice and is listed as questionable for Monday night’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers.
Rudy Gobert is out for Monday night, but participated in parts on Sunday’s practice. He also went one-on-one full court with rookie center Tony Bradley. Gobert looked spry and healthy playing against Bradley. He ran the floor well. He looked athletic and generally like he’s very close to returning from a sprained knee and bone contusion that’s caused him to miss a month.
Pen to paper
The Jazz officially signed power forward Georges Niang on a two-way deal Sunday morning. To make room for Niang, the Jazz waived shooting guard Naz Mitrou-Long. Niang is a 6-foot-7 power forward, who was originally drafted by the Indiana Pacers.