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Utah Jazz look to rally behind surgery-bound Mo Williams

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2 2013 11:30 p.m. MST

Mo Williams of the Utah Jazz watches from the sidelines during play against the Golden State Warriors at Energy Solutions Arena on December 26, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Melissa Majchrzak, NBAE/Getty Images) Mo Williams of the Utah Jazz watches from the sidelines during play against the Golden State Warriors at Energy Solutions Arena on December 26, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Melissa Majchrzak, NBAE/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Al Jefferson got his hopes up when Mo Williams didn't get in touch with him Tuesday afternoon.

"I thought everything went good," Big Al said, "because I didn't hear from him."

The opposite turned out to be the case.

After a second MRI and an evaluation by his hand doctor in New York City, it was determined that Williams needs surgery to repair damage in his right thumb.

The Jazz's usual starting point guard will undergo a procedure on his hand Friday in New York by Dr. Michelle Carlson, who operated on his same thumb in 2008.

Williams will be re-evaluated six weeks after his surgery.

In the meantime, the 10-year veteran will sport a splint on his right hand and will be limited to conditioning and restricted weight training.

Utah's Gordon Hayward dunks as the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Utah's Gordon Hayward dunks as the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Though Jefferson didn't get a message from his Mississippi pal and teammate, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin exchanged texts with Williams.

"He's doing OK," Corbin said. "He's frustrated. He's disappointed in the fact that he had to have surgery. He thought he was feeling better and he would do OK to come back a little sooner, but it's the smart thing to do and it's the right thing to do for him."

Williams hurt his thumb when he swiped at a ball and whacked his hand into Mario Chalmers' thigh during the Jazz's loss at Miami on Dec. 22. The guard's hand went numb and then gave him fits when feeling returned. The injury has kept him out of the past five games, including Wednesday's 106-84 victory over Minnesota.

Gordon Hayward goes in for a shot as the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. Jazz won 106-84. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Gordon Hayward goes in for a shot as the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. Jazz won 106-84. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

"He's a veteran," Jefferson said. "He know how to bounce back from it. It still (stinks), though, because nobody don't want to be out."

That, however, will be the case until at least Feb. 23.

"We've got two veteran point guards in Jamaal (Tinsley) and Earl (Watson). The job is going to be taken care of while he's gone," Jefferson said. "Them guys been doing a heckuva job so far. I'm not too much worried about that. I'm more worried about Mo and his mindset. I think the team is going to be fine."

So far, the Jazz have gone 2-3 in Williams' absence with this injury. They're 5-4 overall without him this year.

Corbin said circumstances have made it so games have even more importance in his absence.

Utah's Jeremy Evans is fouled by Minnesota's Greg Steimsma as the Jazz and Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. Jazz won 106-84. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Utah's Jeremy Evans is fouled by Minnesota's Greg Steimsma as the Jazz and Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. Jazz won 106-84. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

"They're all big for us now," he said. "We're under .500 now and we have a man down ... so we have to understand how we have to play soon without him in the lineup and collectively how we all have to pick it up to give us a chance to win."

One key, he said, will be to get quick ball movement to make up for the missing quickness. The Jazz will place more emphasis on transition play and getting the ball to the wings sooner in the offense. Corbin also said Gordon Hayward, Randy Foye and Alec Burks could get opportunities to handle the ball.

"It's difficult. He's one of the leaders. He's the guy we want to put the ball in his hands and create the speed and tempo for us," Corbin said. "For him to be out, especially now while we're trying to make a run to position (ourselves) for the second half of the season to get ready for the playoff run, it's disappointing to have him out for such an extended amount of time."

Utah's Enes Kanter has the ball knocked away by Derrick Williams as the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. Jazz won 106-84. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Utah's Enes Kanter has the ball knocked away by Derrick Williams as the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. Jazz won 106-84. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

That doesn't mean the Jazz will rush out to replace Williams. Utah is in quasi-building mode, so the organization won't mortgage away flexibility it has in the future with nine expiring contracts and open payroll in return for a short-term fix.

"We're just going to circle the wagons and try to determine our level without Mo," said Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, who re-emphasized the big picture. "(Former Jazz GM) Kevin (O'Connor's) been very disciplined in building this threshold. We have two first-round picks going into next year, so we have a lot of flexibility. Anything that we do, we have to take a lot of long-term ramifications into context."

The Jazz are carrying a maximum 15 players, including exiled Raja Bell and D-League assignee Kevin Murphy, so they'd have to waive or trade someone to bring in another point guard.

Utah's Marvin Williams loses his mouth guard as he is fouled by Minnesota Kevin Love as the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. Jazz won 106-84. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Utah's Marvin Williams loses his mouth guard as he is fouled by Minnesota Kevin Love as the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. Jazz won 106-84. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

A move does not appear imminent.

"This is the NBA. Injuries do happen, unfortunately," Lindsey said. "Our job is to make lemonade, both on the short term and long term."

As it stands, the Jazz are not in a Western Conference playoff position with a 16-17 record — and without the one-time All-Star point guard who runs the show.

"One of our leaders is down," Corbin said, "and we all have to rally around him to play better to make him feel better about himself."

"It's going to hurt not having Mo, but I think we'll be OK," Jefferson added. "We're going to hold it down until he comes back."

Corbin is confident the 12 remaining healthy players will pull the Jazz through to their playoff goals.

"It makes it a little tougher for us, but we believe and I trust these guys. I like all the guys on this roster," Corbin said. "Everybody has to pick it up. We as coaches have to figure out things to try and put the guys in a position to have a chance to be successful. ... The character will carry us through."

Minnesota's Andrei Kirilenko and Utah's Al Jefferson talk during a free-throw as the Jazz and Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. Jazz won 106-84. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Minnesota's Andrei Kirilenko and Utah's Al Jefferson talk during a free-throw as the Jazz and Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in Energy Solutions arena. Jazz won 106-84. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Jefferson is remaining positive, too.

"I think we're still in a good position," he said. "I think we still have a chance to reach our goals."

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