Almond waiting for turn against Hawks
Although he has played only 34 games in two seasons with the Jazz, Morris Almond at least can say he has been in uniform for games against 26 of the 29 teams in the league.
Then again, one team that he hasn't played against stands out.
Almond grew up outside of Atlanta and was a teammate at McEachern High in Powder Springs, Ga., with Hawks forward Josh Smith . He was in the NBA Development League both times the Jazz played Atlanta last season and was on the inactive list Monday night.
"It's not in Atlanta, so I guess there's a difference," Almond said. "But it would be fun to play against Josh Smith."
It was Almond's fourth consecutive game on the inactive list. With the Jazz having declined an option to bring him back for the 2009-10 season, Almond's agent, Lon Babby , has advised him about a return to the D-League possibly being in his best interest.
"He told me that it might not be a bad thing to go to the D-League," Almond said, "just to play again towards the end of the season, because that beats being inactive game after game after game. Last year, I said I'd rather be up here, but now it's like it gets old."
Almond, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, set D-League scoring records with the Utah Flash last season. "It's not like I'm going down there with a lot to prove, but I can still get better and game time is game time," he said.
The Jazz will accommodate Almond, if possible. With all 15 players available Monday for the first time this season, Almond, Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos were all inactive.
While Almond has had few opportunities with the Jazz, Smith has starred in five seasons with the hometown Hawks, winning the dunk contest in 2005, averaging 15.4 points and 7.2 rebounds this season and signing a five-year, $58 million contract.
"I'm sure he understands that this is a business and that he has to just try to play it out and weigh his options afterward," Smith said, adding, "He's a young talent and he's a scorer. Anybody that can score like that is always going to be able to get picked up."
The last two months, the Jazz have beaten New Orleans (twice), Detroit, Indiana, Dallas and the L.A. Lakers. All six victories have come with the visiting team arriving in Utah to play the second game of a back-to-back set, as Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has noticed.
"We've probably caught more teams coming in here off of back-to-backs than any time since I've been here," Sloan said. "You get a false sense of satisfaction having those things happen. When you play four games in five nights, we'll see who we are."
For the past three summers, the Jazz have been sending players to work out at the Peak Performance Project in Santa Barbara, Calif., with Marcus Elliott , a Harvard Medical School-educated physiologist.
Elliott's face been all over the Internet in recent weeks, with ads promoting his FRS energy drink appearing on ESPN.com and NBA.com. Kyle Korver said he called up Elliott and "gave him a hard time" about the publicity.
"It's a great product, obviously," Korver said. "Anything that he's behind, I would believe in. I'm sure it's going to do really well."