Jody Genessy, Deseret News
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Over the past two seasons, Al Jefferson and Enes Kanter forged a friendship while working and joking with each other as Utah Jazz teammates. One’s from Mississippi and the other’s from Turkey, but they became bosom buddies on and off the basketball court.
On Saturday night, Kanter made Big Al his pen pal.
Hours before the Utah Jazz’s 88-85 victory, Kanter crafted a handwritten letter and then had a ballboy deliver it to Jefferson’s locker around the tunnel at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Moments later, Jefferson, now the Bobcats’ starting center, strolled over to the Jazz locker room and asked coach Tyrone Corbin for permission to enter. After his former coach jokingly answered, “As long as you don’t do nothing crazy,” a sweaty Big Al waltzed in, shared a good laugh about the note, and reminisced with Kanter and his old Utah friends.
“He was just like a big brother,” Kanter said after Utah improved to 8-22 with its second win of this road trip. “He was really a nice guy.”
The affable 21-year-old wanted to playfully reach out to his first NBA mentor and the guy who used to relentlessly tease him, so he wrote Jefferson a letter during some downtime before the game.
The (partly censored) letter, which Jefferson later showed Utah media while laughing, was a classic:
“Dear Big Al,
My Boy! I’m gonna pump fake you all night.
Jeremy (Evans) said he is gonna dunk on you.
Airport was closed but thank you for letting us land on your bed.
Biggie says you’re a (inside joke).
Your Boy Big Turk”
The letter and interaction with Kanter brought a big smile to the face of Jefferson, who signed a three-year, $40-plus million deal with Charlotte this past offseason. (By the way, Big Al left the kingdom-sized 10-foot-by-12-foot bed he was often teased about back in Utah.)
“He showed me some love. I thought it was funny,” Jefferson said. “I thought it was real funny.”
The Jazz got the last laugh on this night.
With Utah leading by one, Jefferson had two chances to put the Bobcats ahead in the final 13 seconds, but he just missed two tip-in opportunities. Jazz shooting guard Alec Burks was credited for a block on Jefferson’s second putback miss, and rookie point guard Trey Burke snatched up the loose ball and was fouled.
Capping a terrific game, Burke calmly sank two free throws with 10.2 seconds remaining to put the Jazz up by three.
The Bobcats fired off two heavily contested desperation 3-pointers in the final 1.9 seconds, but both shots badly missed.
Talk about a buzzkill.
The visitors spoiled a festive night for Charlotte. Team chairman Michael Jordan was on hand to help introduce a logo/name rebranding for “Buzz City,” as the Bobcats will become the teal-and-purple Hornets again next season like the town’s NBA team used to be before relocating to New Orleans in 2002.
Jefferson, the Jazz’s leading scorer from 2010-13, finished with a solid night of 19 points and 11 rebounds, but he had to earn those points while battling with the guys he trained over the past few years, Derrick Favors and Kanter.
“We just didn’t make shots down the stretch like we wanted to,” Jefferson said. “They sealed the game at the end and got stops when they needed to.”
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