If the best opportunity that is for me and for my family (is) to continue to play (with) the Utah Jazz, I would be more than ecstatic to play. ... They're giving me an opportunity to work with the young guys. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity that Coach Corbin has given me and how the city of Salt Lake has embraced me. —Richard Jefferson
ATLANTA — Tyrone Corbin didn’t hear Richard Jefferson’s radio interview in which the small forward called himself a “gun for hire” and said he plans on “championship hunting” in the offseason.
But when asked about the comments, the Jazz coach, who’s openly credited Jefferson for his play and leadership this season, took exception to some of what his player said in a SiriusXM NBA appearance.
“Well,” Corbin said, “we’re trying to be a championship-contending team.”
And, no, the coach doesn’t like hearing players discuss going elsewhere while they’re employed by the Jazz, either.
“We don’t want to talk about going anywhere else. You’re part of us here now,” Corbin said at Friday’s shootaround. “We appreciate the things he’s doing here. He’s a part of our family now.”
Jefferson didn’t back away from the message he relayed on the national radio show. The 33-year-old lost in the 2001 NCAA championship game with Arizona, settled for a bronze medal with the 2004 U.S. men’s Olympic team and came up short twice in the NBA Finals with the New Jersey Nets, so he’d love nothing more than to have a chance to win a title before his NBA career ends, presumably in the next few years.
“I would love the opportunity to go and play on a team that’s fighting for a championship,” Jefferson said. “I wouldn’t say (I’m) unapologetic, but who doesn’t want to win a championship?”
Jefferson, who’s making $11 million in the final year of his contract, said he’s looking forward to being a free agent for the first time in his career in the summer of 2014.
While getting another crack at a championship is high on his wish list, Jefferson didn’t count out a possible return to the team that traded for him this past offseason.
“If the best opportunity that is for me and for my family (is) to continue to play (with) the Utah Jazz, I would be more than ecstatic to play,” Jefferson said. “They’re giving me an opportunity to work with the young guys. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity that Coach Corbin has given me and how the city of Salt Lake has embraced me.”
Jefferson said it’s sometimes hard to relay the full message in an interview like he was having with friend and former NBA player Kenny Smith and Jason Goff.
“The context was never I’m unhappy with my situation. I couldn’t be more happy with my situation,” he said. ”I’ve got a great group of young guys; I’ve got a great young coach that has given me an opportunity to play.”
As far as Corbin’s concerned, he’d much rather hear thoughts on this year’s team than where the 13-year NBA veteran is going to be next.
“Who knows what happens down the road,” Corbin said. “But we want to make sure we do everything we can to help us be as good as we can now and focus on this (season) and not anything other than that.”
LESS TIME: Jefferson played for 17 1/2 minutes in Friday’s 118-85 loss to Atlanta after logging just 26 minutes combined in the first two games of this road trip. That’s far less PT than the 26.7 minutes he’s averaged this season.
The Jazz starter doesn’t seem bothered by the diminished court time.
“Alec (Burks) has been playing extremely well. I’m very, very comfortable in my role of supporting the team,” Jefferson said at shootaround. “It’s not about minutes for me. It’s about helping the young guys. It’s about doing whatever Coach Corbin needs.”
Jefferson said his attitude won’t change if he sees 10 minutes or 40. He’s already played more minutes this season (765) than he did all last year with Golden State (565).
“I’m not complaining either way,” Jefferson said. “Nor have I ever in 13 years complained about minutes or opportunities even when they weren’t exactly what I wanted.”
BACK HOME: Small forward Marvin Williams still owns a condo in Atlanta, where he spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career before being traded to Utah before the 2012-13 campaign.
Williams was looking forward to visiting with arena employees, fans and members of the organization that are still around.
“It’s always good to be back,” he said. “I love Atlanta.”
Even though an injury prevented him playing, Williams admitted last year’s return was “more emotional” because the trade was fresh.
“The team that I left is not here anymore,” he said. “The coaching staff is not here anymore. A lot of people in the organization are gone, so it’s just a little different for me.”