They’ve carried us this year for the most part — not only on-the-floor stuff, but in the locker room and in the community. They’re two really, really good guys that are pros about their business. —Tyrone Corbin, Jazz head coach
SALT LAKE CITY — Al Jefferson took it all in good humor, all the questions being tossed at him about his free agent status this summer. He’d already been asked at least twice about his impending free agency when another question thrown at him about the odds of him returning back to Utah suddenly made him hard of hearing.
He feigned deafness at the reporter’s question before laughing and saying, “Yeah, I heard you. Y'all come at me with the same questions, just in a different way.’’
Jefferson wasn’t about to make a definitive comment about his plans for next year during Thursday’s locker cleanout, but his pat answer was that he has a good agent who gets paid to make those decisions for him.
“Everything is happening so fast,’’ he said. “I’m going to let (my agent) handle that when it comes time to get to the table and talk. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.’’
Jefferson is one of eight free agents on the Jazz roster and the most prominent along with Paul Millsap.
The general view is that one or the other will not be back next year and possibly neither will be. The chances of both returning to the Jazz are next to none, many believe.
Millsap said he doesn’t even want to think about his impending free agency yet. He’s been with the Jazz for seven years since being a second-round draft choice who has become a solid starter in the NBA.
“I’m not a psychic. I don’t know,’’ he said. “I’ve got to wait and see what happens. I’m going to rest and be with my family. I don’t even want to imagine that.’’
Millsap was frank when asked if he was able to put the idea of free agency in the back of his head during the season.
“I’m human, so no,’’ he said when asked about not thinking about it. “That’s me being honest. It’s a tough thing to try to put it in the back of your head and not think about it. For the most part, I felt like we did a good job of handling it and the coaches did too.’’
Coach Tyrone Corbin acknowledged it was challenging dealing with all the free agents this season and particularly praised Jefferson and Millsap for their attitudes.
“They’ve been great, two great pros for us,’’ Corbin said. “They’ve carried us this year for the most part — not only on-the-floor stuff, but in the locker room and in the community. They’re two really, really good guys that are pros about their business.’’
Jefferson was arguably Utah’s most valuable player this year, surpassing his career averages in points (17.8 ppg), rebounds (9.2) and assists (2.1). In his last five games when the Jazz were desperately trying to make the playoffs, Jefferson carried the team, averaging 23.6 points and 12.0 rebounds on 54.9 percent shooting from the field.
Millsap averaged 14.6 ppg and 7.1 rebounds, also above his career averages, but well below his numbers of the two previous seasons and down nearly two points and two rebounds from 2011-12. During the final five games, Millsap averaged just 8.4 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey, like his predecessor Kevin O’Connor, is tight-lipped when talking about future Jazz moves. When asked if he could envision a scenario where both Jefferson and Millsap might be back next year, he said, “No comment, because I just don’t know at this stage.’’
Lindsey did say, “There’s never too many good bigs’’ and acknowledged both Jefferson and Millsap will garner a lot of free agent attention this summer.
“They’re going to have a ton of options because there’s a lot of money on the market. They both fully earned the right to their unrestrictive free agency,’’ he said. “I do think they both appreciate the situation that they’ve had — they were both glowing in their exit interviews about their experiences here ant they both appreciate Ty and how he handled the bigs.’’
Lindsey also said the Jazz are well-positioned to make a run at free agents this summer.
“I think we have a great story to tell about the history of the organization,’’ he said. “I think we have plenty of roster spots and a lot of salary cap to pay good players. Whether it’s quick and bold or long and painful and patient, we'll figure it out.’’