SALT LAKE CITY — There were some funny lines mixed in with the comments about a disappointing playoff-less season, future uncertainty and summer plans at the Utah Jazz's dreaded locker cleanout session.
Nothing got more laughs than when Jazz center Al Jefferson pulled a Karl Malone while talking about his affection for the local community.
"I love the city of Utah," Jefferson said. "It's a great city."
While media members chuckled, Jazz PR director Jonathan Rinehart softly said "Salt Lake" to Big Al.
"Salt Lake. I'm sorry," a slightly embarrassed but smiling Jefferson said. "See. That's why I keep you around."
Jefferson continued: "I love the city of Salt Lake. It's a great place ."
After he finished complimenting fans and Utahns, Jefferson laughed when teased about "the city of Mississippi."
"See," he told a certain beat writer. "That’s why I ain't talking you today."
Jefferson continued his humorous interview by jokingly saying "It's secret" when asked about possible improvements to the Jazz he discussed during his exit interview with management.
Big Al then pretended he couldn't hear a soft-spoken female reporter when she asked multiple times what he thought his odds are of returning to Utah. It wasn't the first time the free-agent-to-be had been asked to comment on his future.
"Yeah, I heard you," he said, grinning. "Y'all coming with different questions with the same question just in a different way."
So, how's the town of Mississippi anyway?
— What's next for free-agent point guard Earl Watson? "Taking my daughter to Disneyland." He smiled and added, "I'd rather be in the postseason than standing in those long lines."
Watson said fans often forget that many players are fathers — his 2-year-old daughter lives in California — so it's fun for them to spend quality time in the offseason.
There is one place, however, where Watson won't bond with his cute little girl.
"The tea cups get me every time," he said, laughing. "They always get me dizzy, so if I pick some random person to ride with my daughter, it's not nothing crazy."
— Any big offseason plans for Jamaal Tinsley?
"Just me and my son," he said. "It's his world."
At an amusement park?
"Dave and Buster's, Dave and Buster's, Dave and Buster's," Tinsley said, repeating the name of the popular arcade chain like his 8-year-old son might do when telling him where to spend time together. "That's all he knows: Dave and Buster's."
— Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin on advice he received from other coaches about how to handle a team with nine free agents: "Most guys I talked to just felt for me," he said, chuckling. "It's a difficult position to be in."
— Jazz forward Paul Millsap on what prevented the Jazz from getting into the playoffs: "Wins," he said, smirking. "Not getting as many wins."
— Jazz big man Derrick Favors was asked how well he can use his left hand on the offensive end. "I'm very good." The same radio guy then asked about his right hand, causing Favors to crack up. "I'm really good right, too." Continuing the line of questioning, another reporter jokingly asked how good he was with his left foot. Favors smiled, "I'm good either way."
— Jazz players had individual interviews with the bosses in order of seniority in the NBA. When they weren't killing time talking to reporters or grabbing stuff out of their lockers, younger guys had to find something to do for a couple of hours until their turn. You can probably guess how Gordon Hayward spent part of his wait. Yep, playing a video game. You could also tell which player is a semi-pro video athlete. Early in the game, Jeremy Evans grimaced and pushed Hayward after giving up a goal to his locker neighbor.
— General manager Dennis Lindsey was asked if any of the Jazz's free agents would take a smaller paycheck to return to Utah: "I don't know. Would you take less?" He was then reminded that reporters already made that lower-salary decision by choosing their profession. "By definition," he said, smiling. "Me too as a video guy (in Houston)."