SALT LAKE CITY — Consider Jeremy Evans the silver lining surrounding the gloominess of final cuts day for the Utah Jazz.
The second-round pick from Western Kentucky is the only player with a nonguaranteed contract left on the 13-man roster after the team waived Sundiata Gaines, Othyus Jeffers, Demetris Nichols and Ryan Thompson before practice Thursday.
"You always hate to see someone leave, but that's how it is sometimes," Evans said. "I wish the best for them. I'm just glad to say I'm still here. I just believe I came in and worked hard, and I didn't want to get cut, either."
To hear the Jazz gloat about this rookie, it's safe to say Evans won a roster spot well before Jerry Sloan and Kevin O'Connor made their dismissal decisions. His size certainly helps the 6-foot-9 Evans' cause, considering Mehmet Okur continues to rehab his Achilles and other Jazz bigs have been a bit banged up.
"I didn't consider him even a possibility to get cut," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "He's going to help us, man. It wasn't even in my mind to think of Jeremy as a nonguaranteed player, even though he is. He's not going anywhere."
The guys with the final call couldn't agree more. Evans has won over Jazz brass with his athleticism, attitude and aptitude.
Evans has been one of the many bright spots for the undefeated team this fall. The Jazz have liked what they've seen from him since he participated with their entrant in the Orlando summer league.
"You look at him and you say, 'How can this guy play in this league with his body?' " Sloan said of the 196-pounder, who turns 23 on Sunday. "But he's a wonderful guy. He's a hard worker and he tries to do what he's told to do."
And refreshingly so.
"He competes and he doesn't make mistakes," Jazz general manager O'Connor said. "So it's been fun to have him around. It's fun to have a kid that doesn't have all the answers yet that understands. He listens to Coach, so we've been comfortable with that."
Evans wasn't certain cuts would be made Thursday. He figured something was up, however, when he entered the Jazz's training facility with the four soon-to-be-cut guys but they never made it out to the court to warm up prior to practice.
"I felt strong, but still I came in with those guys thinking anything could happen. I could be cut also," Evans said. "I just came in wishing that I could still come out on the court today."
The unfortunate reality is a reminder to him that he still has work to do to make the Jazz keep him around past the January deadline when nonguaranteed deals become guaranteed for the season.
"I want to stay here as long as I can, as long as they keep me," Evans said. "I want to play every game like I've been playing, even harder. ... I feel OK, not satisfied, because I believe I still could get better."
JEFFERSON SITS: X-rays taken of center Al Jefferson's right index finger revealed that his bruised knuckle is not broken. To help his bruised palm heal, he sat out Thursday's practice after his previously injured knuckle was retweaked during Tuesday's win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jefferson said his knuckle, originally injured in the preseason opener, is "a little sore" but he doesn't plan on missing tonight's exhibition finale.13 comments on this story
"I'm most definitely going to play," he said. "I'm not going to let nothing like that stop me from playing, just got to suck it up."
THIS AND THAT: Deron Williams has been excused from playing in tonight's game for personal reasons. … Jefferson and Raja Bell assisted children at the Lied Boys & Girls Club with basic vision screening Thursday as part of a weeklong service-project effort by NBA Cares. … Jazz fans hoping to see if the team can go 8-0 in preseason for the first time are in luck. The 7 p.m. game will be televised on FSN-Utah.