SALT LAKE CITY — Tyrone Corbin grimaced, groaned and clearly didn’t like being asked about an interesting fact regarding his team.
Superstition aside, how crazy is it that Old Man Richard Jefferson, who’s got a dozen years on Trey Burke, is the only Utah Jazz player who’s seen action in all 70 games this season?
“Oh!” Corbin blurted out, recoiling at the question before Sunday’s practice. “Don’t say it! Somebody said that about Alec (Burks) the other day and guess what?”
Burks twisted his left ankle on a teammate’s foot near the end of practice Friday, forcing him to miss Saturday’s game against Orlando.
That was the first game Burks missed all season, leaving the 33-year-old Jefferson as the last Jazz player to not have an absence of some sort this season.
Burks didn’t practice again Sunday and won’t play Monday against the Detroit Pistons. Reserve center Andris Biedrins, who hasn’t played since December, is also officially out because of left shoulder tendinitis.
Jefferson, knock on wood if you need to, keeps on plugging along in a year that’s helped revive his career.
Corbin isn’t just impressed that Jefferson, averaging 10.2 points as a starting small forward, has played in all of the games. He’s more impressed that the 13-year veteran showed up to camp in terrific shape after being traded to Utah from Golden State, that he participates in all of the practices and drills, and that he’s been a positive mentor to young players like Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward.
“The things that he’s brought to this group of guys and the lessons that (they’ve) learned from him all go a long way,” Corbin said.
The Jazz coach talked about the respect that the players have for Jefferson, who has transformed from a prolific scorer in New Jersey to a role player in the latter stages of his career after rarely playing in Golden State.
“Being as accomplished as he is, a guy like that may have checked out (after his Warriors stint) and said, ‘This is the end of it for me.’ He didn’t do that,” Corbin said. “We had a talk this summer and (I) told him, ‘Everything is open here come into camp, work hard, and (you’ll) have an opportunity to play.’ He came into camp in shape and was ready to go. He’s been working the same every day.”
TIGHT ROTATION: For the first time this season, the Jazz only had eight players get action in Saturday’s 89-88 win.
One reason, Corbin explained, was because their usual sixth man, shooting guard Burks, was out with a sprained ankle. The coach said matchups also played a factor, although he admitted that it was evident his guys got a bit gassed late in the game.
Jazz starters Burke (39), Gordon Hayward (40), Jefferson (39), Derrick Favors (36) and Kanter (36) each logged at least 36 minutes. Marvin Williams, now coming off the bench, played 24, while backup guards Diante Garrett (19) and John Lucas III (8) were the only other players to get court time.
Jeremy Evans, Brandon Rush, Rudy Gobert, Ian Clark and Malcolm Thomas dressed but didn’t get off the bench.
“We needed to win a game,” Corbin said. “They responded well. We’ll look at things going forward.”
OUCH: Player development coaches Alex Jensen and Johnnie Bryant work with players every day before practice, and Sunday was no different.
Well, except the part where Jensen left the court with a bloodied nose.
While working with the big men, Jensen got popped in the nose on accident by Kanter. The coach left momentarily, got the bleeding to stop by stuffing tissue in his nose, and returned after joking about getting revenge.
A smiling Kanter met the returning Jensen at half court and embraced him with a friendly hug before they got back to work. Told about it, Corbin joked that physical play is what he likes to see from his big men.