Third-year Jazzman Hayward said it was awfully nice, though, having three days off — something that seldom happens during the course of any NBA season, and never seemed to happen during last year's condensed, lockout-shortened season. And getting the elongated break over the Thanksgiving holiday made it even sweeter.
"Last year we would've had two games by now," Hayward said. "It was good to have a little time off for the holidays and give people some time to spend with their families."
SIZING UP THE KINGS' BIG MAN: Jefferson was asked his assessment of Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings' leading scorer (16.6 ppg) and rebounder (10.0 per game) who has caused the Jazz plenty of problems in the past — not only with his strong play, but with some of his overly aggressive antics that were aimed primarily at then-Jazz starting point guard Devin Harris.
"I think DeMarcus Cousins is very talented and I've got mad respect for him for a young big man," said Jefferson, who didn't see any need for any extracurricular activity involving Cousins, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound man-child who's in his third NBA season and recently turned 22 years old. "We're on the court to play basketball. This is the greatest job in the world and it's a blessing to be out here playing it. So I really don't have time for all that other stuff. Me and him have always had a great relationship, so I'm not looking forward to none of that.
"He's a guard trapped in a big man's body, if you ask me. The way he dribbles the ball and uses his guard skills, he's very challenging on the block. He shoots very well and he passes the ball very well for a young big man. He's a talented guy.
"The way to go at him is attack him on the other end, try to get him in foul trouble. Once he gets in foul trouble, I think it kind of takes him out of his game a little bit," Big Al said. "But I've got to come with my shoes laced up tonight. I've got mad respect for him and I think that he most definitely can be a superstar in this league."
Jefferson and Cousins virtually neutralized each other Friday night.
Cousins finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in Friday's game, but he did commit four turnovers.
Jefferson wound up with 17 points, eight boards, two assists and a blocked shot — but he did not commit a turnover. Most importantly, though, he outplayed Cousins down the stretch, scoring five of his seven fourth-quarter points during a four-minute stretch of Utah's 21-7 closing run.
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