Big Al Jefferson apologized Tuesday, saying he meant no harm in prematurely praising the San Antonio Spurs last weekend.
Sadly, the Utah Jazz center didn't need to do it. His comments were honest, heartfelt and, above all, harmless.
"I meant no disrespect to anybody, saying (the Spurs) couldn't be beat," Jefferson said at Tuesday's end-of-season locker clear out. "I just spoke how I felt."
That's exactly what Big Al does, he speaks how he feels. And I'd say most Jazz fans appreciate that about him.
Look, it really wasn't that big of a deal. And yet some in the media and among the team's fanbase expressed righteous indignation over his praise for the Spurs.
What, exactly, did he say? Merely that San Antonio -- which at the time led the Jazz 3-0 in their Western Conference playoff series -- was so dominant the Spurs appeared unbeatable.
Amazingly, no giant mushroom cloud appeared in the wake of his comments. Birds continued to chirp, ice cream still tasted sweet and, happily, the sun rose the next morning, right on time.
"I just think it gets to the point that you're playing a team that's better than you," he said last Sunday, long before the Jazz were swept out of the playoffs with a Game 4 loss.
"If you lose to a team because you didn't play your best, that's one thing," he added. "When you're playing your best and doing everything you can and you're just playing against a team that's better than you, that's another."
Jefferson pointed to San Antonio's first-round exit last season and noted that they are, in fact, beatable. But he also marveled at how well the Spurs had been playing this season.
"It's a blessing to be here, I'm happy to be in the playoffs, I'm happy to go through what I'm going through right now because that's what it's all about," he added. "I just think we're playing against a team that's at its peak. I don't see nobody beating them."
At that, Jefferson seemed to sense the oddness of his statement, especially considering Game 4 had yet to be played.
"We ain't given up and we're gonna try and win tomorrow," he said.
And he was right. The Jazz did try to win Monday, coming from 21 points down in the fourth quarter to cut the Spurs' lead to single digits in the final minute. Yes, Jefferson and the Jazz gave a great effort. But they still lost to a superior team.
That's just the way it is.
Fans and members of the media who took offense at Big Al's comments need to get over themselves. They weren't intended to be harmful to his teammates or the Jazz organization as a whole.
Perhaps he should have been more guarded in his comments; perhaps he shouldn't have been quite so respectful of the Spurs. Those who have taken umbrage seem to think he was somehow boot-licking Tim Duncan's sneakers.
Not so, though. He was simply speaking from the heart, and even though he never surrendered to them, he spoke the truth about the Spurs.
The surgical way in which they run their offense and the disciplined way the play defense really is impressive. And while they may see tougher opponents later in the playoffs, they certainly look like the team to beat in the West ... if not the entire NBA.
"If I offended anybody, I apologize," Jefferson said Tuesday. "I didn't say it to upset (anyone)."
No need to apologize, Al. Those who took your comments too literally are just caught up in the sports world's version of political correctness.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at email@example.com. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247