LOS ANGELES When word leaked late Friday that Los Angeles Lakers' star Kobe Bryant will win NBA MVP honors this year, it came as no great surprise to the Jazz.
"I don't pay attention to that," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said Saturday as the Jazz prepared to face Bryant and the Lakers in today's Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal playoff series. "But he's the logical choice, because his team has done well and he's having a great year."
"He was the MVP," Jazz All-Star Carlos Boozer added. "The way his team played, the way he played he's probably been the best player in the game for the last few years, but finally he deserved it. And I'm happy for him."
Even Jazz point guard Deron Williams, a friend of New Orleans point and likely top-three finisher Chris Paul, seemed to think the media voters got this one right."I think he deserves it," Williams said of Bryant. "I don't know how he didn't get it when he (scored) 81 that year (in the 2005-06 season) and had like 10 (50-point games) in a row. So, I mean, it's well overdue."
KORVER'S EX-LOVE: Before moving to Iowa, Kyle Korver's family lived in California. His birth city, in fact, is Lakewood, which is only about 22 miles away from the Staples Center.
It shouldn't come as a shock, then, that the Jazz's backup shooting guard cheered on the local NBA team and, no, it wasn't the Los Angeles Clippers.
Korver admitted at Saturday's shootaround that he "was a huge Lakers fan" as a kid.
"I grew up watching 'Showtime' basketball," he said. "Magic (Johnson) and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), Byron Scott, James Worthy, Michael Cooper it was fun."
Jazz fans needn't worry about his loyalties now, though.
"I've kind of gotten past that," he said about his passion for the purple and gold. "They're the enemy now, so to say."
Still, Korver is excited to play in Los Angeles for childhood reasons, and because he might have his own cheering section for some of the road games in the second-round series."I still have a lot of family there," he said, "so I always enjoy coming back."
NO COMPARISON: One parting shot from Houston comes courtesy of veteran Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo, who is as familiar with the Jazz of old as he is with that of the present.
Said Mutombo on the morning of Friday's Game 6, which was won by the Jazz, thus eliminating the Rockets from first-round play: "This is a different team. You can't compare them. You know, you have two Hall of Famers in John Stockton and Karl Malone. Even though they have Deron Williams now, you can't compare John Stockton to anybody in the league today."People compare Boozer to Karl Malone, and I don't think so," Mutombo added with a laugh. "If you would have played against Karl Malone, you would know (Boozer) is not Karl Malone. ... I don't know so many people to play on the same level with the same intensity, and as physical as Karl Malone did. You know, he bump everybody big, small, Hall of Fame."
MISUNDERSTOOD?: Kobe Bryant might be Public Enemy No. 1 when he plays in Utah, but he has at least one fan/friend in the state. Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer, who will start opposite Bryant, said the Lakers' superstar has gone out of his way to encourage him in his first two NBA seasons.
"He seems like a pretty down-to-earth nice guy," Brewer said. "A lot of people get the image that he's cocky and he's not an approachable guy, but he really is."
Brewer and Bryant have a friendship with former Jazz guard and current Laker Derek Fisher in common. They sometimes talk on the phone as well as on the court."(Bryant) always says 'Good game' after the game and 'Keep working hard, keep improving,"' Brewer said. "He seems like a positive role model to me."
MISC.: According to reports out of Los Angeles, it's extremely unlikely injured Lakers center Andrew Bynum will be play in the series. "I doubt there's going to be a comeback this year," Bynum, who has been out since Jan. 13 with a dislocated left kneecap, told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. "I've got to get my knee straight. At this point, I'd have to train for a good month just to be able to go out there and play." ... Former Jazz scout, ex-Denver Nuggets assistant general manager and current NBA Development League Utah Flash general manager Dave Fredman, scouted the Lakers for the Jazz in preparation for the series. ... Jazz center Mehmet Okur has five straight postseason double-doubles, matching his highest consecutive double-double streak from the past regular season.