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Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson gets surprise phone call and NBA honor

SALT LAKE CITY — Al Jefferson got an unexpected phone call from Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin on Monday afternoon.

At first, Big Al thought he might be in trouble.

Jefferson then wondered if he was a prank victim.

"He called me out of the blue, and I was thinking I did something wrong," said Jefferson, who then quickly was reminded it was April Fools' Day. "(Coach) was like, 'Yeah, I'm calling to trade you. …

"But, oh yeah, that's right," Corbin added, "we can't trade."

The real reason for the call?

The coach was informing Jefferson he'd been named the NBA's Western Conference player of the week.

"I think it's a tremendous honor for where we are," Corbin said. "He's a huge part of the success that we're having."

That success — a 4-0 week from March 25-31 — played a large part in Jefferson earning his fifth player of the week award during his nine-year career.

Big Al averaged 19.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.5 blocks during the pivotal week, which helped the Jazz work their way back into the eighth and final playoff spot out West.

"It really did (surprise me). It caught me off guard so bad," Jefferson said. "I'm so focused trying to just get into the playoffs. I ain't really thought about our record this week and what I averaged this week."

Others did.

Jefferson's highlights last week included a 25-point game in a 103-88 win over Phoenix, 22 points and four steals in a 105-95 comeback win at Portland, and 20 points, seven boards, three steals, two assists and two blocks in Saturday's 116-107 victory against Brooklyn.

Jefferson, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds in Utah's 112-102 win over Portland on Monday, has been named a player of the week five times in his nine-year career, including twice with the Jazz (the first time being April 23, 2012).

That came as a surprise to him. He thought this was his fourth time.

"For real?" he said when informed he's earned the honor twice in Utah, twice in Minnesota and once with Boston. "It's a great feeling, but there's bigger fish to fry. The main goal is to win a championship."

Big Al is averaging a Jazz-best 17.4 points and 9.1 rebounds. He's also tallying 2.1 assists, 1.16 blocks and 1.0 steal per game for his 39-36 team.

Knicks guard J.R. Smith is the Eastern Conference player of the week. He averaged 29.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in four New York wins and had three straight 30-point games.

Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week include the following: Jeff Green (Boston), Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas), Roy Hibbert (Indiana), Mike Conley (Memphis), Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City), Tobias Harris (Orlando), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento) and Tim Duncan (San Antonio).

PLAY BALL: Jazz guard Randy Foye was excited to watch his New York Yankees on Monday. The New Jersey native grew up playing baseball, dreaming of becoming the next Ken Griffey Jr., but his favorite player over the years has been the Yanks' Derek Jeter because of "how he competes."

"I'm definitely excited about Opening Day," said Foye before the Yankees lost to the Boston Red Sox.

Corbin was also asked if he was excited for the beginning of the Major League Baseball season.

"I hadn't even looked at it this year. I'm kind of inundated with something else right now," Corbin said, smiling. "I can't even think about baseball right now. We've got a long season ahead."

SOCKING CANCER: The website with information on a fundraiser to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society was edited out of Monday's story about Jazz trainer Brian Zettler's cancer-fighting fundraising efforts. For information on the "Rock Em! Sock Em!" event, go to Donors will have an opportunity to meet and shoot with Jazz players and bid on autographed items and tickets.


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