Despite a 7-1 start, Utah players have voted - unanimously, though somewhat grudgingly in some cases - to make a uniform change Friday night in Seattle. From now on, the Jazz will wear black shoes and black socks with their dark road uniforms.
"We were talking about it before the 7-1 start, so it's not" going to change the team's luck, insisted Jazz point guard Deron Williams, the ringleader in the switch away from white. "Shoes don't matter. It's just a different color."
For a team with a conservative, by-the-book reputation, it's a significant change, however. But the old-school coach is on board with the black shoes, which the team broke out for the first time at its Wednesday morning practice.
"I don't care if they wear overshoes," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan - while wearing white sneakers. "As long as they're the same color."
That's been an issue since Williams arrived in Utah last season and began pushing for the switch.
"The young guys wanted them, but other guys were still going to wear white," Sloan said. "I said, 'It doesn't work that way.' It's part of being a team. You've got to be a major campaigner and get everybody to wear them. Otherwise, one or two guys? [That's when] I'll get involved in it."
Williams has been working on his teammates, but the big breakthrough came when one 7-foot-2 roadblock to his plans decided to retire last spring.
"I wanted to wear them, but we couldn't get everybody to wear them with 'Tag being here," Williams said of his stubborn ex-teammate, Greg Ostertag. "He didn't want to wear them. Matt [Harpring] didn't really want to. Memo [Okur] didn't. But [now] we just said, 'We don't care.' "
The change, a first in the franchise's 32-year history, was delayed until Utah's fifth road game because equipment manager Brian Zettler didn't have black versions of the specific models of shoes each player wears. (All Jazz players wear Nike, except New Balance endorser Rafael Araujo.) The Jazz will still wear white at home.
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The shoes aren't the only uniform change coming this weekend. The Phoenix Suns have been instructed to bring their home whites to Salt Lake, meaning the Jazz plan to unveil their new alternate uniforms at Saturday's game.
The new uniforms, which will be worn at a couple of home games and then at the team's discretion on road games, essentially reverse the color scheme of the current road uniforms, meaning they are light blue with dark blue trim. The uniforms say "Jazz," in the same stylized uphill letters that are on the team's logo (and were on their uniforms before the change to the current uniforms last season).
In other words, they resemble the baby-blues that North Carolina is famous for. Hmm. Got a problem with that, Carlos Boozer?
"It's Jazz blue, not Carolina blue," said the Duke alum and Tar Heel-hater, clearly in denial. "Jazz blue."
Andrei Kirilenko and Gordan Giricek won't travel with the Jazz to Seattle today, and they are also unlikely to play against the Suns on Saturday. But they are improving, according to Kevin O'Connor, the team's senior vice president of basketball operations, and will be evaluated on a daily basis once the team returns. . . . Jarron Collins scored two quick baskets on Tuesday, but sprained an ankle and left the game. Collins' ankle was still sore Wednesday, and he was held out of practice. Collins is probable for Friday's game with the Sonics, however.