NEW ORLEANS — Al Jefferson has been in the NBA for seven seasons, so it stands to reason he'd have tricks of the trade to pass along to a teenager like Derrick Favors.
But Big Al smiled after Saturday's game and hinted that the teacher might need to pay attention to the student in this case.
What the big (young) man did during the Utah Jazz's loss to the Spurs — a career-best 17 points and five rebounds — was not lost on Jefferson or anybody else who watched how Favors competitively played against the NBA championship contenders.
"I'm talking about teaching him some stuff," Jefferson said. "I might need to learn some stuff from him."
When told at practice Sunday how Jefferson said he might need a few lessons from him, the shy and polite Favors cracked a slight grin.
"I don't know," said Favors, whose next student-teacher session will take place tonight against the New Orleans Hornets. "He got a lot of stuff in his post game that I would like to learn."
Sounds like a match made in upcoming summer school heaven.
"He getting more and more comfortable," Jefferson said of Favors. "He got some nice moves, too, with his back to the basket, the way he can finish with both hands. =85 He's ahead of the game for being a 19-year-old kid."
Which explains why Tyrone Corbin is thrilled to begin his head-coaching career with such a big, young talent who was the national player of the year and a hot commodity coming out of his Atlanta-area high school in 2009.
"I'm really excited about him, because his upside," Corbin said. "He's a young guy. You can kind of mold and teach him the things that you need him to learn to get better. As he get better, the team will be better, which means his time on the floor will be more effective for us."
Veteran point guard Devin Harris has been with Favors the entire tumultuous season — from his NBA get-go in New Jersey, where trade rumors swirled the head-spinning No. 3 draft pick's name around, to Indianapolis, where the pair met up with new Jazz teammates for the first time after being traded for Deron Williams in late February, to the AT&T Center on Saturday night, when Favors established a career-high in scoring with 17 hard-earned points..
Having seen his entire rookie year up close, Harris gives the would-be Georgia Tech sophomore a favorable progress report.
Favors won't win the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.
But he is coming along nicely.
"I think he's playing more confident right now. . . I think he's really flourishing," Harris said. "He does well. His post moves are getting better. He's making stronger moves. He's always been a good offensive rebounder."
When the Jazz were able to acquire Favors in the D-Will deal, general manager Kevin O'Connor was giddy about getting a talented, high draft selection with two ideal qualities: youth and size.
"Hopefully," O'Connor said, "he becomes the player that we like a great deal."
The 6-foot-10 tall one, mind you, was in one of the top two spots on the Jazz's 2010 draft board.
"You don't see kids with that size with that athleticism," O'Connor said. "He's got a body. He's got athletic ability. He's not afraid to work."
The Jazz G.M. conceded it would take time for Favors to develop, and Corbin suggested that has happened in the past month and a half despite — maybe because — of all of the tough times and turmoil the team has experienced..
Favors, who doesn't turn 20 until July 15, has improved his conditioning. His comfort level and poise have increased. He's better at defending, especially on pick-and-rolls. His correct positioning has come a ways. He's shown he can defend outside-shooting power forwards and post-preferring centers.
"I think he'll continue (to improve) as his time on the floor his IQ of the game will get better," Corbin said. "His upside is pretty good. He's made strides since he's been here."
Favors' shot selection needs to improve, and Corbin wants him to attack the basket instead of relying on his mid-range jumper. He also hopes to give him more time in the last two games, like his 30-minute outing Saturday.
Favors feels more "comfortable in the post" but he wants to work on his inside moves, his strength and being able to have more games like Saturday's.
"I've got to stay consistent with it," he said. "I've got to keep working, just try to keep playing that way."
Overall, the Jazz have been pleasantly surprised with the skill set the strong 246-pounder with a 7-foot-plus wingspan brought with him to Utah.
"(Favors) put the ball on the floor better than I thought he could at this stage for a young guy," Corbin said. "He's big inside. He can rebound out of his space. He can really go get rebounds. His hands are pretty good. He can catch the ball and finish in traffic. He can take a bump and finish in traffic."
Corbin also loves that Favors is teachable, works hard and plays well with others even if he has a reserved personality.
"Off the floor, he may not say anything, but on the floor he actually does a pretty good job of communicating with his teammates," Corbin said. "He reads situations pretty well. His activity is good, and he's not afraid of going in and being big and putting his body on guys, so that's good."
Favors hasn't started hanging out with his fellow rookies, Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans, around town or on the road. (For instance, he did not check out the Alamo with Hayward and Evans in San Antonio on Saturday.) But he does spend extra time shooting with them at practices, and his on-court chemistry with Hayward has given many in Utah hope for a bright future.
"He's got a lot of potential, but it's more of finding it on a consistent level," Harris said. "I think that's what he has to work towards, and I think he definitely has the poise and the work ethic to do so."20 comments on this story
Favors also gets a daily dose of wisdom — one free tip a day — from the guy who's been by his side this season.
"I don't want to overload him," Harris said. "I think he's a guy you just throw out there, let him make mistakes and kind of learn his way through it."
And today's tip?
"Know where he is on the floor," Harris said. "I think (Saturday) he took a shot from behind the backboard. He didn't really know where he was."
Of course, considering his progress and potential, the Jazz and their fans are elated he ended up where he is.
6-10, 246, PF
Birthdate: July 15, 1991
Averaging 6.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, 51.6 FG%
Career-highs: 17 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks
Named 2009 national prep player of the year by USA Today, Parade, Altanta Tipoff Club and MaxPreps
ACC Rookie of the Year at Georgia Tech (2010)
19-year-old is the youngest player in the NBA