SALT LAKE CITY — Derrick Favors' new reserve role didn't last very long.
Hours after it was announced that Paul Millsap would replace him in the starting lineup, the second-year big man was reinserted back into the first five for Friday's home opener.
This time, though, he was the Jazz's starting center.
An injury to Al Jefferson forced Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin to make the late change. Big Al was scratched from the game an hour before tipoff because of an inflamed right ankle.
Jefferson's ankle started swelling up Thursday. The injury, he explained, dates back to 2006 when he had surgery for a bone bruise, leading to him getting painful arthritis in the joint.
Jefferson stopped taking medicine for it after his knee surgery in 2008, and it finally caught up with him. He's back on the meds, and is beginning to feel better — just not good enough to go Friday.
"I don't miss games if I can help it," Jefferson said. "I hate missing games. … I couldn't run without a limp (so) that was pointless to go out there, hurt my team by not being 100 percent."
Jefferson was the only Jazz player to see action in all 82 last season. He's a game-time decision tonight in San Antonio.
"Better play it safe than sorry," Jefferson said after the Jazz's 102-99 win over Philadelphia. "I'm going to try to go if it feels better, but if it's feeling like it is right now I'm just going to take it easy."
Watching the game from the training room was "nerve-wracking" for Jefferson.
Ironically, Favors had a strong start, scoring eight first-quarter points and not getting into early foul trouble. He finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
But the 20-year-old will return to the bench when Jefferson is ready to go again.
"I'm a basketball player and I do whatever Coach wants me to do," he said. "If he wants me to come of the bench, I'll come off the bench. If he wants me to start, I'll start."
Corbin said he wanted to give the Jazz starting lineup a bit more versatility with Millsap's outside shooting abilities. He avoided this Friday, but Favors was taken out of Utah's road games because of early foul problems, and he never got into a flow after that.
"I think he gets hesitant after he gets he early fouls," Corbin said. "And it throws his whole rhythm off."
When Favors returns to the bench, Corbin believes the second-year player will learn from observing from his front-row seat. The more experienced Millsap has been in and learned from that situation most of his six-year career.
"He will still play his minutes. … He gets a chance to watch a little bit coming off the bench and relax a little bit, I hope, and be ready to come in the game," Corbin said. "Paul is used to starting so he'll know how to handle the anxiety and just go out and play and play aggressively, and not worry about not fouling."
Favors said he was "all right" with Corbin rational for moving him to a reserve role.Comment on this story
"When you're on the bench you kind of get a feeling for the game," he said at Friday morning's shootaround. "When you start, you've got to come out of the gates ready to go."
As for Millsap, Corbin added: "Paul, I thought, had a great training camp. He deserved to start."
BIRTHDAY BOSS: Today is Corbin's birthday, but the Jazz will be in San Antonio for the coach's Big No. 49. His only plans are a basketball game against the Spurs.
"I'll take a win," he said, smiling. "That would be the best birthday gift."