August Miller, Deseret News
ironman (ī'ərn-mān') A male athlete of remarkable endurance or durability. (Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
SALT LAKE CITY — Cue the Black Sabbath music. Dust off Robert Downey Jr.'s gold and maroon high-tech costume. And channel those triathlete and Cal Ripken Jr. vibes.
Three Utah Jazz players this season are positioning themselves to be ironmen, which could be defined in NBA terms as male athletes of remarkable endurance and durability who play in every single game.
Paul Millsap, Ronnie Brewer and Wesley Matthews are the only guys on Utah's roster who've seen action in all 49 Jazz outings this season heading into tonight's game in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
"We're the fortunate ones," Millsap said, "to be able to do that due to (our) strength, a little luck, just how we play."
If you're the superstitious type and worry that this article might put a jinx on these three, think twice before hurrying to find a block of wood to knock.
The Jazz had four players who'd logged action in every 2009-10 game up until two weeks ago. Then, in an unfortunate twist (or strain) of irony, Carlos Boozer hurt his right calf the day after he jokingly told media members to "knock on wood" as he tapped his head while speaking about his up-to-then injury-free season.
Rest assured, none of the three Jazz players did any similar rituals to ward off injury curses at practice Monday while talking about their relatively healthy seasons.
The way they talk about their love for playing, it will take more than a silly jinx to keep them off the court anyway. Heck, Brewer partially dislocated his right pinkie finger and bruised both a rib and his back in the past month, and he's still plugging along.
Brewer has the current longest consecutive-games played streak of Jazz players at 106, dating back to December of 2008, so he's learning how to gut it out and exorcise excuses. (Former Ute guard Andre Miller of Portland leads the NBA with 583 straight appearances, and ex-Jazz guard Derek Fisher of the Lakers is next with a streak of 383.)
"I could be like, 'My finger's hurt; my back's hurt; I had a bruise on my leg,' " said Brewer, who played in 81 games last season. "I could sit out, but you've got to play through some adversity, play through some pain, and I think it just builds character."
Matthews is not about to let some bumps and bruises keep him from getting in the mix while his coach keeps calling his name during his dream of a rookie season.
"I'm a competitor," Matthews said. "No matter how tired I may be, banged up, whatever it is, I want to be out there, because I know other people are tired and banged up, too."
The undrafted 23-year-old rookie also pointed out how a difference exists in hoops "between playing hurt and injured."
One — playing injured — puts your body at risk of damage.
The other — playing hurt — requires sucking it up and battling through discomfort.
"I think everybody in this league is hurt … and it's just fighting through it," Matthews said. "It's just mind over matter and pushing and just playing."
Pardon Jerry Sloan, but he isn't exactly impressed that three of his players have recorded playing time in every game — a good indication of how he feels that 10 of his 13 guys have missed action for various excused reasons.
The 22nd-year Jazz coach remembers when being an NBA ironman wasn't such a rarity.
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