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Kragthorpe: Ready or not, Jazz's preseason already over

Published December 22, 2011 10:00 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The first clue that this was no ordinary preseason home opener surfaced when veterans Devin Harris and Raja Bell led the Jazz onto the floor for the pregame warmup.

So much for the traditional prank of having the rookies run out first, only to look around and discover that no one followed them.

The shortened schedule apparently left no time for shenanigans, not with real games starting next week. Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin's first preseason was over before he knew it, ending with Wednesday's 92-89 win over Portland at EnergySolutions Arena.

"Everything's gone by really fast," Corbin said. "We still have to make adjustments on the fly. We can't get a real rotation down because we don't have enough [preseason] games to do it. So we'll just keep working at it."

That just means more practices, in advance of Tuesday's regular-season opener against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

Corbin already is out of rehearsal opportunities, which hardly explains his approach Wednesday. He pretty much treated the contest like the second of eight preseason games — not the last of two — by using all 13 available players for 11 or more minutes, while Harris played only 14 minutes as the starting point guard. Corbin stayed with his reserves down the stretch, in contrast to the Blazers, and he liked the results. "Our guys didn't buckle," he said.

The Jazz still do not seem ready to play for keeps, although they can hope that other teams are similarly disjointed and inconsistent. If nothing else, they showed considerable improvement from Monday's 20-point loss in Portland.

In a concession to preseason basketball, Corbin allowed starters Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Bell to stay on the floor until each had recorded three fouls — which took barely eight minutes.

The Jazz's offense was anything but crisp in the first quarter and their transition defense was a joke.

Eventually, C.J. Miles and other reserves sparked the Jazz. So if you're looking for signs of hope, here's Wednesday's list of positive developments: Miles scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half, backup point guards Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley played decently, the Jazz defended and rebounded well in the halfcourt and everybody gained some experience in a winning effort.

Yet defining this Jazz team will remain a futile exercise until something resembling a rotation is established and more evidence becomes available.

Obviously, the Jazz will benefit from Paul Millsap's return, after he missed both preseason games with quadriceps tendinitis. But who knows how long it will take him and everybody else to blend together, while the Jazz play six games in eight nights beginning Tuesday.

NBA teams usually have eight preseason games. Thanks to the lockout, the 2011 schedule was reduced to two games — which actually is good for the fans, who are charged full sticker price for these productions, but bad for the Jazz, with a bunch of new players and a coach who's preparing for his first season opener.

And it's almost here, already. Having the preseason end so soon is "kind of weird, but it's stuff you've got to deal with," said Favors, a second-year player.

For a veteran such as Watson, the calendar is saying one thing and the schedule quite another. "This whole season is kind of bizarre, because usually now you're pretty much into your season," he said. "You have an identity as a team."

Instead, the holidays arrive with far more questions than answers in Jazzland. Asked if he senses the team is ready for the season, Watson said, "I think we have no choice."

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt