Houston — Notes following Jazz shootaround Sunday morning at the Toyota Center.
Jazz center Al Jefferson and reserve forward Jeremy Evans competed in a hilarious 3-point shooting contest after shootaround that was watched by many teammates and coaches. Jefferson nailed the majority of his shots, but Evans won the end of the round. By the time Evans heated up, he'd started barking. The ball would fly from his hands, arc downward through the basket, and Evans would shout, "Woof!" Several players got a kick out of Evans' barking, while Jefferson was very loose and confident throughout the challenge. At the same time Evans and Jefferson were firing away, a couple Jazz personnel continued to jokingly remind them the team had to be back at the Toyota Center in "30 minutes," referencing a 5 p.m. MT tipoff.
Utah is expected to start Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Jefferson against the Rockets.
All 14 Jazz players are healthy. DeMarre Carroll will likely remain inactive.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said rookie guard Alec Burks' recent move above small forward C.J. Miles in the rotation isn't permanent.
Corbin on the change: It's just where we are now. The matchups, I like what he's able to give us with getting to the basket; trying to get to the free-throw line a little more. His game is dictated a little more by him attacking the basket, so I like that option for us. Some nights, size-wise it'll be different. Some nights, experience will help us. It depends on who the other 2 guard is. He did a good job the other night, so we'll just go from there.
Corbin said Burks' development is "on schedule."
Being physical with the Rockets: I think that we have to. [But] we can't go out and just be physical if it's not our nature. We have to play. And that's one thing that we talked about right from the beginning of training camp, is we have to create a tempo that's better for us, and that's being aggressive on both ends of the floor. Whether it's physical or not, we like to say it's being more aggressive and going after things. Making hard cuts, being up on the screens. Being on your man on the defensive end of the floor and creating tempo that way.
Jazz making a stand during final three games before the All-Star break: I think it's really important, and I think it's really important that we continue to build. We want to go into the All-Star break feeling good about how we're playing and not backing into it. This is a tough game tonight, which we know we're going to have to come out and be really aggressive early in the game and have a chance to win it. [Monday] night is San Antonio on our home floor — one of the best teams in the league; they're playing extremely well and they're tough. And then Minnesota: Going on their floor, man, they're playing good basketball. We have to really be ready and focused.
Jazz staying healthy while other teams continue to lose key players: Guys have done a tremendous job, from [Gary Briggs] to [Brian Zettler] and Mark McKown, our strength and conditioning guy. Making sure that we take care — we stretch a lot; we do some weight stuff, as much as we can without overdoing that. Just making sure we stay on top of where guys are. We've been blessed with that so far. We've got to make sure we continue the rest of the year.
Corbin said Carroll can "flat run for a 3 man."
Houston reserve forward Jordan Hill (right knee) is out. The Rockets called up forward Greg Smith from the NBA Development League's Rio Grande Valley Vipers to replace him.
Brian T. Smith
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