ATLANTA — Utah was on ESPN again Friday night, but Al Jefferson had some extra national TV time a day ahead of the Jazz's latest widely watched comeback win.
Jefferson also got a bit of expected ribbing, a few compliments and free advice from his old boss while a studio guest on the Atlanta-based TNT's Inside the NBA postgame show late Thursday night.
First, the team compliment via Ernie Johnson, who was accompanied by Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Kevin McHale.
"The Utah Jazz have been the talk of the NBA," the show host said, "because what they've done this week has been nothing short of sensational."
The Jazz are even "sensationaler" now after adding to that list of comeback wins Friday, edging Atlanta 90-86 after trailing by 11 early in the fourth quarter.
That, of course, came after much-publicized comeback wins over the Los Angeles Clippers a week ago and back-to-back rallies against Miami and Orlando.
"It really boosted our confidence up," Jefferson said on TNT of his team's comebacks.
Jefferson also was offered a tip by McHale, the ex-Minnesota general manager who traded Kevin Garnett to the Celtics in exchange for Big Al.
The ex-Celtic great, a Hall-of-Famer who knows a little something about post play, said Jefferson needs to stop swinging his outside leg so wide when he posts up on a play he calls the "okey-dokey" move, which usually results in a hook or an up-and-under move.
Flailing the leg out too far makes Jefferson drift and take more difficult off-balanced shots, McHale pointed out. He had the same habit with the Timberwolves.
"Get to driving with that right leg and going up and no more fading," the player-turned-GM-turned-TV analyst said. "And get to the offensive glass."
Jefferson, who had 15 points and 10 boards Friday, and McHale then exchanged pleasantries.
"When I got to Minnesota I was really anxious to get with him," Jefferson said. "Even though he was the G.M., he always was at every practice, always there if we needed any help from him. He was glad to work me out every chance he got, so it really helped me out."
Added McHale: "He's such a good student. This is one fine young man."
Early in the five-minute segment, McHale jokingly claimed Jefferson's knee injury "cost me my job" at Minnesota. To which Barkley quipped: "Kev, I hate to break it to you — he's not the one who cost you your job."
Barkley also teased Jefferson, asking him how much his sparkling diamond earrings cost.
Jefferson laughed and said they'd have to talk off the air.
THANKFUL COACH: Unprompted, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan publicly thanked his assistants — Phil Johnson specifically, but also Tyrone Corbin and Scott Layden — for convincing him to employ an effective zone and for drawing up a couple of plays that Williams scored on Friday.
"They did a great job of helping me," Sloan said. "I can't say enough about what they do all the time. … They helped me through a tough time."
That resiliency and team concept in difficult times might be the greatest strength of this Jazz team, which has rebounded nicely from starting the season with back-to-back blowout losses to Denver and Phoenix.
"You've got to stay together as a group of guys," Sloan said. "Even when we had a little trouble to start the season, there was a lot of excitement. We stubbed our toes a little bit. Fans got a little restless.3 comments on this story
"So at least they stayed together and worked themselves out of it," Sloan added. "That's the only way you have a chance. If you get in an ice-pick fight out in the parking lot then you've got to try to solve that problem."
Added team captain Deron Williams: "We have good chemistry."
HISTORY LESSENED: Pardon Sloan, but he was not impressed that no other NBA team had ever pulled off three straight wins in the shot-clock era (1954) after trailing by 10 points or more at halftime.
"That'll get you a toothpick and a glass of water when you're hungry," Sloan said. "Nobody cares about that."