Jazz notes: Utah's top players stay healthy in lockout season
Center Al Jefferson was the only Jazz player to take the court in all 82 games last season.
During the lockout-compressed 2011-12 campaign, five Utah athletes might compete in at least 63 of 66 contests.
After taking the court Tuesday night against Phoenix, rookie Enes Kanter and second-year forward Gordon Hayward have played in all 65 of the Jazz's games. With Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Devin Harris recording time in at least 62 with one game to go, Utah's on the verge of having most of its top athletes successfully navigate what's been an injury-plagued season for many teams.
By watching his big-name teammates fight off pain and continue to hit the hardwood, Kanter said he picked up an important lesson during his first year in the NBA.
"Al and Paul and Derrick really took care of themselves this year and I learned from them a lot," said Kanter, prior to tipoff Tuesday against Phoenix.
Jazz forward Josh Howard and guard Raja Bell were active against the Suns.
The duo started 51 games this season but hadn't played in more than a month due to injuries.
Howard had long targeted the Phoenix game as his ideal return date, and he'll continue to ramp up his conditioning in the hope of helping Utah in the playoffs.
"I want to play as much as I can, but I really don't think that's going to happen that much, especially with the [good] chemistry," Howard said. "I'll be available if [coach] needs me. If not, I'll be down there cheering."
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin's work is drawing notice.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry said he spoke pregame with Corbin, and the Phoenix head man's impressed with what Utah's second-year coach has pulled off during a tough lockout season.
Entering Tuesday, the Jazz had gone 19-12 since Feb. 28, weathering the loss of several key role players.
"He did a great job of turning this thing [around] and winning games and getting them in a situation where they've got a chance to make the playoffs just like we do," Gentry said.