Entering his 13th season in the NBA, Thabo Sefolosha has played, chronologically, 183 regular-season games with the Chicago Bulls, 368 with the Oklahoma City Thunder, 189 with the Atlanta Hawks, and 38 with the Utah Jazz.
He’s eager to add to that last total.
After proving himself a valuable member of the team’s bench unit last season — averaging 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 21.2 minutes, while shooting .492 from the field and .381 on 3-pointers — he suffered an injury to his right MCL on Jan. 12 against the Hornets and underwent season-ending surgery five days later, right before the Jazz began their impressive late-season stretch.
“I’m just super-excited to get back started and get into the groove of things again,” Sefolosha said at the Jazz’s 2018 media day last week.
About Thabo Sefolosha
• Forward averaged 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals last season, while shooting .492 from the field and .381 on 3-pointers.
• After returning from season-ending surgery for an MCL injury, he figures to see increased minutes at the four position in small-ball lineups this season.
• He will miss the first five games of the regular season for violating the NBA’s Anti-Drug Policy in April.
After rehabbing his injury this summer, and having the option year of his contract picked up, he got the process going in Saturday’s preseason-opening 130-72 victory over the Perth Wildcats of the Australian NBL.
Sefolosha got to work by playing 14 minutes and 46 seconds, and while his statistical contribution was minimal (three points on 1-for-4 shooting, four rebounds, one assist), just being out there was an important step for him.
“I feel pretty good. I guess the reflexes, moving side to side, stopping and going, that’s what takes a little more time,” he said at Monday’s practice. “Obviously, it has been awhile. It’s gonna take me a little bit to get into a rhythm, but for a first [game], I was happy with that.”
Sefolosha’s appearance was also notable for the time the 6-foot-7, 220-pounder spent at the power forward position.
With the Jazz limiting the number of minutes that Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors play together, and with the likes of Jonas Jerebko and Joe Johnson gone, and the league trending toward smaller lineups anyway, the native of Switzerland figures he’ll see plenty of minutes at the four position this season.
“I’m ready for it. It’s very different, actually. Defensively, there’s a lot of things that I have to adjust to — playing with Rudy, playing with Fave, there’s different things that we do, so I got to react to that,” he said. “Offensively, also, it’s more about finding the players, finding guys to do dribble handoffs with, and pick-and-roll, pick-and-pops, understanding when to do which.”
Regardless of where he lines up on the court, his teammates will be happy to see him out there.
Donovan Mitchell said Sefolosha made a big impression on him a year ago, and believes that he will be better still this coming season.
“He’s a hell of a defender. He kicked my butt a few times in one-on-one scrimmages we had,” Mitchell said. “He’s looking like he’s stronger than he was last year, he looks leaner, he’s shooting it better, having more confidence in it. And he’s just a glue guy. … We’re glad to have him back. I’m excited for him.”
Of course, while Sefolosha will get some time in Tuesday’s second preseason game, against the Toronto Raptors, his ability to add to his regular-season games-played total with Utah will be slightly delayed.
In April, Sefolosha was suspended for five games for violating the NBA’s Anti-Drug Program. Because he was injured, that penalty will be served in the first five games of this season.
He referred to the situation on media day while praising the guys he shares a locker room with.
“We have a special group of guys, and it shows on and off the court. We’re able to communicate, be honest with one another. And that comes with the respect that we give each other and the work that we put in,” he said.
“I mean, not everybody’s perfect …” he concluded with a grin.
Utah Jazz vs. Toronto Raptors
When • Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where • Vivint Smart Home Arena
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Noteworthy • Derrick Favors is questionable to play due to illness. Dante Exum will miss the game with right knee soreness. Raul Neto remains out with a hamstring injury. Trey Lewis is doubtful with a left ankle sprain.