What originally could have been a two-day trip for the Utah Jazz has turned into a long wait in an angry city. But finally Friday afternoon the Jazz got the news that Game 4 of the NBA playoffs with the L.A. Clippers is back on again.
The Jazz-Clippers contest will be played Sunday at 4 p.m. (MST) at the Anaheim Convention Center.Originally scheduled to be played last Thursday at the L.A. Sports Arena, the game was delayed several days and then moved due to rioting following the Rodney King verdict. Had the Jazz beaten the Clippers Tuesday, they would have returned home Wednesday to Salt Lake to prepare for the second round of the playoffs.
The decision to move the game to Sunday caught the Jazz by surprise. They were told Thursday that the game would probably be on Saturday.
"The only problem I have to deal with is had we known we were playing on Sunday, we would have gone back to Salt Lake," said Sloan. "Now I don't feel comfortable going back to Salt Lake and then coming back here."
Jazz G.M. Tim Howells was even more adamant in his concern. If the Jazz lose, they will return to Salt Lake and play Game 5 Monday in the Delta Center. If they win, they'll meet Seattle Tuesday in Salt Lake.
"This puts us at a disadvantage," said Howells. "We've been in limbo all week long because we're here in a different environment, sleeping in foreign beds. On the other hand, the league did the best job it could to try to preserve a bad situation."
The gap between games has given the Jazz plenty of time to either rest up or get rusty, depending your perspective. The Jazz last played on Tuesday and have played just three games in the last 12 days.
"I think it's unfortunate that the Clippers were able to dictate the terms of the game," said center Mark Eaton. "The league made the decision to play tomorrow (Saturday). Now we've pushed it back another day. We're just sitting here not able to even have a tough practice. It's hard to stay in shape."
The Jazz practiced Thursday and Friday at Inglewood High, where the floor is so old and damaged that players were unable to go all-out in their workout. Coach Jerry Sloan called practice after less than an hour both days.
"The problem I have is how to get practice facilities. With four NBA teams in town the problem is how to get adequate practice facilities," he said.
Though the gym is also an alternate site for the Lakers during the regular season, it isn't the first choice for anyone. After practicing one day at Loyola Marymount University, the Jazz were left to scramble for an alternate site. Scheduling problems at LMU wouldn't allow the Jazz to work out there later in the week.
Sloan said he hoped with the Lakers and Blazers leaving for Las Vegas, where they will play their own game Sunday, that would leave another gymnasium open for the Jazz to work out in.
"That's all I've got against all this is because of the facilities. Especially for such an important game," added Sloan.
Waiting has become a way of life for the Jazz in recent weeks. After their season-ending win over the Spurs on Sunday, April 19, they waited until the following Friday before playing. That was followed by games on the following Sunday and Tuesday. The Jazz lead the best-of-five series 2-1.
But after Tuesday's game rioting and looting broke out L.A. and the team was forced to stay sequestered in its hotel most of the rest of the week. "We're just trying to play a game somewhere," said Sloan.
"We wanna play. I'm bored. All we do is sit and practice. I'm at the point where I don't care where or when we play. I'm ready to play and ready to go on to the next series," said Karl Malone.
Sunday's game at the Anaheim Convention Center will be nothing if not unusual. The Center seats only 7,400 and is used mostly for conventions. However, the facility was used for several years as the site of the Big West collegiate basketball tournament.
The last time a professional team played regularly there was when the Anaheim Amigos of the ABA were the tenants. The Amigos later became the Utah Stars.
Clippers' spokesperson Lori Hamamoto said she didn't know how many tickets are expected to be sold to the game.
While the Jazz worked out at Inglewood, the Clippers went through a normal practice at Loyola Marymount Friday.
But everyone is ready to get on with the NBA Playoffs. "At first I thought of it as a chance to get some rest. Now it's where you're stagnating. I'm tired of sitting. Heck, I want to play or go home," said Malone.