San Antonio • When Paul Millsap was benched for the entire fourth quarter of a game in late December, he was asked whether the coaching decision upset him.
“What you think?” he responded. “I’ll let you answer that.”
But after being benched for the final 14:47 of the Utah Jazz’s 100-93 loss at Houston on Wednesday, Millsap found himself faced with the same question at Thursday morning’s practice.
“It’s tough for me not to play at all, period,” he said. “I want to be on the court at all times.”
Starting point guard Mo Williams, who also did not play in the fourth quarter, said he was “absolutely” fine with the move.
Millsap, in the final season of a four-year contract with the Jazz, was left on the bench as Derrick Favors closed the game. Favors’ numbers — five points, three rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes — paled when compared with Millsap’s 16 points, four rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes. However, the burgeoning backup was part of a resurgent unit that cut a 26-point deficit to five against the Rockets. Favors was part of a group that included Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Marvin Williams that coach Tyrone Corbin praised for a defense that, while it made mistakes, “it wasn’t as many times as the group before.”
Millsap described himself as “positive by nature” but was clearly troubled by the reduced role. He is third on the team in minutes per game at 30.2, and has spent more time on the floor this season than every player with the exception of Jefferson.
But the second-round pick turned franchise cornerstone seemed Thursday resigned to a change.
“Obviously,” he said, “it’s going to be that way. So I got to live with it.”
Lineup changes coming?
Given his stated willingness to adjust his lineups however necessary in search of a winning combination, it came as little surprise when Corbin said Thursday that he may consider the one that closed the loss in Houston.
Just not yet.
A lineup that included Favors, Hayward and Burks would no doubt please Jazz fans clamoring for bigger roles for young players, but Corbin said he would not pull the trigger on something so dramatic for Friday’s game against the Spurs.
“Not right now,” he said. “Not for tomorrow, but we considered it. That’s going to be where we are. We’ve got to play the group that you feel right now is going to give you a chance right now. They played their butt off to get us back in the game.”
That lineup would mean starting games without a traditional point guard, a move that would no doubt send an unpleasant message to a locker room that includes three of them: Mo Williams,Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson.