SALT LAKE CITY — Getting Al Jefferson to the 2011 NBA All-Star Game has been on Deron Williams' to-do list since the Utah Jazz traded for the big man in July.
Looks like Williams might not have to twist too many voters' arms.
No doubt Jazz fans — who loved Jefferson even before he stepped into Utah, let alone prior to him donning his new team's uniform — will be running to stuff the ballot boxes if he continues playing and progressing as he has the past week.
The Jazz will likely be running away with a whole lot of wins, too.
In his strongest showing so far this preseason, Jefferson scored 24 points, grabbed six rebounds and carried Utah to its fourth straight preseason victory, a 108-97 rout of the Phoenix Suns.
"He just took over," Williams said.
Jefferson was particularly dominant in the third quarter, when he poured in a dozen points and hauled in four boards as the Jazz turned a one-point halftime deficit into an 81-74 end-of-third lead.
That's the Jefferson — the proven 20-10 guy they acquired in a trade from Minnesota — the Jazz were excited to add to their arsenal after losing Carlos Boozer to Chicago this past offseason.
"Every game, every practice, I'm getting better and better," Jefferson said regarding his comfort level in Utah's system. "By the first game in the regular season, hopefully, I'll look like I've been here for years."
By mid-February, Williams won't be surprised if people finally know what Jefferson looks like in an All-Star uniform. This was the third double-digit scoring game in a row for the 6-10 low-post weapon, who had 16 points in each of the Jazz's last two wins.
"Just being on a winning team is going to increase his (All-Star) chances," Williams said. "Because he's going to produce as he has in the past. ... I just look forward to being on his side."
Jefferson, who also had three assists in 26 minutes, eagerly anticipates receiving more spot-on passes from Williams and his teammates.
"The offense alone just gets you the ball in the right spot," Jefferson said. "And you've got teammates like D-Will just coming down throwing that ball out of nowhere. One time the ball just landed right in my hand. I didn't even know where it came from."
On this night, there was little question where the ball was going once it landed in Jefferson's hands — in the hoop. He hit 10-of-14 shots, showing off a soft mid-range jumper along with his finely honed inside arsenal of hooks and power moves.
It was a stark difference from his debut in a Jazz uniform a week earlier, when he only scored six points on 2-for-4 shooting and was visibly gassed and out-of-sorts at times.
"We're happy for him. He's a lot more alive. His body looks like it's getting in better shape," Sloan said. "He's started to show some of his quickness around the basket, and it's nice to see. He can shoot the ball out on the floor just as well."
Sloan still grumbled about his players' iffy-at-times shot selection, which he said forced the Jazz to foul too much on transition defense. That played a part in Phoenix getting 39 free-throw attempts compared to 24 for Utah.
Defense also continues to be a concern for Sloan.
"I don't like what I'm seeing from any of them," he said of the team's D. "They've all got to do a better job. If we're going to be able to compete against teams, we've got to be a lot tougher than what we have. We got a lot of ticky-tack fouls, soft fouls, the kind of fouls you don't want to see."
The Jazz did, however, end up shooting 48.3 percent overall while Phoenix struggled a 44.3 percent clip. Utah also outrebounded Phoenix 51-34, a big improvement from Tuesday night.
Williams had another solid game for Utah, chipping in 11 points, six rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes.
By starting the preseason with two wins over Portland and Phoenix, the Jazz are off to their best exhibition start since they've moved to Utah. The last time the Jazz got off to this quick of a preseason start was 1976-77. It doesn't count in the real standings, but the Jazz will take it.
The victories are good for guys like Jefferson to get used to, after all.32 comments on this story
"Every time you step out there, that's what you want to do. That's the goal," Jazz small forward C.J. Miles said. "It doesn't matter how much people play, you still want to win. It's a good feeling coming back in the locker room with a 'W.' "
NOTES: Center Kyrylo Fesenko left the game with a strained right wrist after tumbling hard late in the game. X-rays were negative, and he's considered day-to-day. ... The 4-0 preseason start is the Jazz's best-ever in Utah. The last time the franchise went undefeated this far into exhibition play was in 1976-77. ... The Jazz travel to Southern California for their next three games, beginning Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.