SALT LAKE CITY — If Charlotte’s Al Jefferson was portraying a Star Wars character, he’d resemble Obi-Wan Kenobi in the eyes of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
“I tell them both and they agree with me, ‘I taught them everything they know,'” said Jefferson, laughing, before his impending return to EnergySolutions Arena Monday night after leaving the Jazz in free agency during the offseason. “Favors and Enes really stepped their post game up to another level. They got a lot smarter and understand what it takes to score.”
Jefferson once again is playing at an elite level on the interior block with all-star quality numbers (17 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game). In an 88-85 pre-Christmas loss to the Jazz in Charlotte, Jefferson scored 19 points with 11 rebounds. He was 9 of 19 from the floor.
“Everybody in the NBA knows what he likes to do on the court, but he’s effective at doing it” Favors said. “ ... You can’t stop what he does. He’s one of those post players that’s going to do his move and you can’t stop him. The only thing you can do is make it tough on him.”
For Jefferson, returning to buildings he once found homely is becoming easier.
“It’s always good to come back, but it’s like my third team that I’ve had to come back to now. Boston, Minnesota and now here, so you kind of get used to it,” he said. “I hope (the Utah fans) welcome me. I don’t think I left on bad blood.”
“It’s weird, man,” Jazz guard Gordon Hayward said of Jefferson's return. “Anytime you have teammates that you’ve played with for a while and they go to another team, it’s always weird. But, that’s how this works, so it’s something I’m used to now. It’ll be good to see him and hopefully he doesn’t kill us down there on that block.”
ANKLE TAPE: After sustaining an apparent ankle injury against the Los Angeles Lakers and immediately playing the night after against the Clippers, Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke said his ankle is ready for the Bobcats.
“It’s OK,” explained Burke, who scored 12 points with six assists in the loss against the Clippers. “It’s just a little sore, but it didn’t really bother me the other night. I’m taping it more now and I’m going to continue to get treatment on it and take care of it and it’ll be ready.
DEFENSE: The Bobcats have made drastic improvements defensively this season. They’ve held opponents to less than 100 points in 23 of 30 games, the second-best mark in the NBA after ranking 29th in the league in points allowed last season.
KEMBA VS. TREY: Both standing at 6 foot 1, the Kemba Walker-Burke meeting delivered the goods in the first meeting with each scoring 20 points. Walker has scored in double figures in 20 consecutive games, the longest streak of his career, and has scored at least 20 points in six of eight games. Meanwhile, Burke ranks second among rookies in 3-point field goal percentage (35.5 percent).