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Utah Jazz notebook: Team signs Othyus Jeffers from the D-League

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 6:34 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — And the winner of your Iowa State Lottery for Thursday, March 4, is ... Othyus Jeffers.

With the Jazz required by NBA rule to add a 13th player by today, a move made necessary by the trade of starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer to Memphis two weeks ago, the team on Wednesday announced it will add a swingman from the NBA Development League's Iowa Energy to its already crowded collection of wings.

Jeffers — who won't be with the Jazz for tonight's game in Phoenix — was averaging 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 51 percent from the field for Iowa this season.

The call-up is worth about $24,000 to Jeffers, who'll sign a 10-day contract if he passes a physical exam today.

The acquisition, though, isn't necessarily for the remainder of the season — and may simply be an evaluation for the future as well as a bridge for the Jazz to carry a 13th until later this month and perhaps sign a currently injured player with considerable NBA experience.

Guard Larry Hughes, sidelined by a fractured finger, is one such candidate.

But the one Utah may be most interested in is ex-Jazz big man Mikki Moore, who started the season with Golden State but — since released — is recovering from Dec. 18 surgery to remove bone spurs in his right heel.

Moore — respected by Utah's coaches after a brief stint with the club — has played for 10 NBA teams over 12 seasons, including 28 games with the Jazz in 2004.

He isn't expected to be ready to play again until sometime later this month, but when he is, it's possible the Jazz would sign him then and return Jeffers to the D-League.

Jeffers — his first name is pronounced oh-THEE-us — is a 6-foot-5, 200-pound Chicago native.

The 24-year-old ended his collegiate career at Robert Morris University Illinois, an NAIA school in Chicago unaffiliated with Pittsburgh's more widely known Robert Morris University, after earlier stints at Illinois-Chicago and Los Angeles Southwest College.

General manager Kevin O'Connor said the Jazz were attracted to the former Sporting News NAIA Player of the Year by "first, his team wins" — the Energy are 30-9 — and because "he's a competitor."

"He's a good defender," O'Connor said of Jeffers, a slash-type who'll wear No. 6 in Utah.

"That's one of the things that impresses us. We think this is a guy we want to try and evaluate a little bit."

Jeffers will be the Jazz's fifth all-time D-League call-up, joining current No. 3 point Sundiata Gaines, ex-point Rusty LaRue, current Suns forward Louis Amundson and Moore.

Coincidentally too, Jeffers started this season playing in Italy on the same NGC Cantu team Gaines played for last season.

The Jazz decided on the signing after realizing they're out of the running for longtime Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who's widely expected to return to Cleveland after being bought out by Washington, and briefly considering but ultimately opting against former San Antonio shooting guard Michael Finley, who reportedly is being targeted by Boston.

Utah apparently would have preferred a veteran big man who can contribute now, but it's also willing to wait for one they feel is a good fit.

"We wouldn't rule it out," O'Connor said.

"We would actively pursue somebody if we thought he could help us win," he added. "Right now I don't see it."

So enter Jeffers, who at least temporarily fills the 13th roster spot.

"We're complying with the rule," O'Connor said. "We're trying to get the best player to evaluate."

"There aren't many big players in the D-league," he added, "that can play at our level."

HE SAID IT: Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, asked Wednesday about finishing games with bigs Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap recently while starting center Mehmet Okur sits: "Sometimes we get in a situation where we're trying to change ends, and that seems to be some problems we've had with that. I don't know. ... It's just more of a gut reaction I have."

TV TALK: The Jazz are 6-2 on major national cable TV this season, including 4-0 on TNT, whose broadcast crew tonight is Kevin Harlan, Doug Collins and Craig Sager.

e-mail: jody@desnews.com, tbuckley@desnews.com

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