Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
BOISE — After starting the Utah Jazz’s first preseason game this past Tuesday, Richard Jefferson didn’t even dress for Friday’s exhibition contest against Portland.
He’s not in Tyrone Corbin’s doghouse, however.
He'll certainly play and it's possible he could be back in the Jazz’s starting lineup Saturday when Utah hosts the Los Angeles Clippers.
By far the oldest player on the Jazz’s squad, the 33-year-old simply got a night off.
“He’s worked his butt off,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “He’s earned it.”
Jefferson didn’t ask for any downtime.
“If Coach asked me to play in every single preseason game, I’d be ready and willing to go,” Jefferson said. “He’s given me the day (off). You just embrace it and you enjoy it and you try to get a little extra rest, because it’s a long season.”
With Jefferson on the bench, Alec Burks slid into the starting shooting guard role. Jeremy Evans also made a surprise start.
Jefferson pointed out that he didn’t completely get a paid vacation in the Gem State.
Before the game, he worked out like he normally would — shooting, running, etc.
“You keep your routine pretty similar,” Jefferson said. “It’s a night off in one sense, but you have other responsibilities.”
Jefferson said he’d observe his younger teammates on the bench and give them feedback.
Speaking of feedback and Jefferson, Corbin continues to speak highly of the veteran who’s about to enter his 13th NBA season.
Jefferson’s career seemed dead in the water last year in Golden State, when he played sparingly and only averaged three points. He’s been rejuvenated since being traded to the Jazz this offseason, along with Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush.
“He’s handling it very well,” Corbin said. “He came into camp in great shape.”
The fact that Jefferson has immersed himself into working hard in drills and participating in all of the two-a-day sessions as a seasoned veteran made an impression on the younger Jazz players, according to Corbin.
“He didn’t miss anything. He didn’t try to take himself out of anything, so he’s gained respect of the guys. He can help share his experiences with the young guys.”
That, the coach added, will help him be a better mentor.
“This is a great experience for him to lead a young group,” Corbin said. “You have to do it on the floor because if you don’t do it on the floor the guys won’t respect you regardless of what you’ve done in the past.”
NOTES: Jazz center Rudy Gobert watched his first football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium last month. Has he become a fan of America’s favorite sport — the other football? “Uh, I won’t say that,” he said, smiling. “But I try to understand everything. I’m getting it.” Three former Jazz players are in the Blazers backcourt: Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Wesley Matthews. Jefferson was injured going into camp last season, but he’s in as good of shape as he’s been in his entire NBA career this fall. “I feel amazing.”
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