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Mo Williams said his right thumb is getting stronger five days after having two pins removed and nearly seven weeks after undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments.

"It's still just a little weak," the Jazz point guard said. "We're doing a lot of rehabbing, strengthening it up so I can be able to practice."

Williams, who has not played in a game since Dec. 22, said he is still building up to full contact with the thumb, but he doesn't know when that will be.

The Jazz are 19-11 in games without Williams this season.

While Williams is rehabbing from the same injury that he suffered at the end of the 2008 season, he said it's difficult to mine that experience for comparison, because he underwent surgery in the offseason.

"It was the offseason so I took the whole three months," Williams said, "so it wasn't a time frame where I had to try as soon as I'm ready."

When he was first injured, Williams said he was told to expect to be out for three months. Whether he is still on pace for that target is unknown, but it would put him on target to return for about the final three weeks of the season.

Tornado aid

Al Jefferson made headlines over the weekend for returning to his native Mississippi and offering to buy a car for a teenage girl whose family's home was destroyed by a tornado in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Jefferson still lives in his hometown of Prentiss, which is 55 miles from Hattiesburg, the home of the University of Southern Mississippi.

"The neighborhood that it hit," Jefferson said, "it really touched my heart. This one family that it hit really lost a lot, and I just felt like I did what I had to do, what I wanted to do and help somebody that was really in need."

Williams, who is from Jackson, Miss., commended his friend for spending his All-Star break visiting the scene of the tornado, which reportedly destroyed or damaged 800 homes.

"It's great that he's able to go back and do those type of things for families and people that he don't even know," Williams said. "Being that he's from there, I'm sure that people he knows personally were affected by that."

Williams said that as another Mississippi native, he feels like Jefferson is "helping a cause for myself, too. So I'm glad that he's able to go back to Mississippi and help."

Jefferson said he knew the family he visited through mutual friends. The girl for whom he will buy a car, he said, is a sophomore in high school and her car was crushed by a fallen tree.

"You walk into their living room and the whole wall is gone," he said. "They had the best attitude that you could have. They were just more thankful and happy that nobody got hurt, nobody got killed. ... They felt like God ain't going to put them through nothing they couldn't get through. That type of attitude, it just warm me up to there's bigger things in life than things that can be replaced."

Twitter: @tribjazz

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