OAKLAND, Calif. — Four days ago in New Orleans, the Jazz had a glut of perimeter players.
Asked how he'd handle the rotation for subs C.J. Miles, Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews behind starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer and starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko, coach Jerry Sloan was at something of a loss.
"Same as I always have. I'll be drawing straws," Sloan joked. "Unless somebody has a better idea up in the stands."
But seriously ...
The matter was becoming something of an issue for the Jazz.
"It's not cut in stone as to who should be where. ... I can't give you anything definite," Sloan said. "It's kind of a gut reaction, I guess. I don't know if it's right or wrong. I feel an obligation, for whatever reason, to try to play as many of those guys as I can."
"We have so many of them, if one of them, it's not their night, you put the other one in and let it be their night," Williams added later that same night in New Orleans. "It's a tough situation for coach, tough situation for our wings, because we have so many good ones."
One day later, the Jazz were down one.
Brewer flew the coup to Memphis, traded Thursday for a first-round draft choice that — because it's lottery protected for the first year — the Jazz will get in 2011 only if the Grizzlies make the playoffs next season.
(The pick also is protected through the 12th spot in the draft in 2012, the 10th spot in 2013 and the ninth spot in 2014 and 2015, and if it hasn't been conveyed by 2015, the Jazz will receive an undisclosed amount of cash.) Gone are Brewer's 9.5 points and team-leading 1.6 steals per game, but so too is his shaky shooting — it cost the Jazz in last season's playoffs — and, perhaps more importantly, his 31.4 minutes per game.
So problem solved, right?
Sloan, whose hot Jazz close a four-game trip in an ESPN-televised game at Portland tonight, can only hope so.
"Some of these other guys get a chance to play more, probably," the Jazz coach said. "But I won't guarantee that to anybody."
A look, then, at the beneficiaries — if they earn it:
More minutes should go to Kirilenko, who scored 22 — and finished just two blocks and one assist shy of a rare 5-by-5, with at least five points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals — in a runaway win at Golden State the night after the trade.
Before Friday's victory over the Warriors, Sloan credited Kirilenko — for the first time, it seems — for the being the biggest impetus behind a stretch that now includes wins in 16-of-18 games.
"Probably the one single thing that's helped us the most is starting Andrei Kirilenko," Sloan said. "If you go back to when we started him, that's when we started playing pretty well."
Kirilenko replaced Miles in the opening lineup 17 games ago, and in that span he's averaged 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 60.1 percent from the field.
"Once we started starting him (this time)," Sloan said, "he's played his best basketball for us.
"He did some weightlifting, did some strength stuff (in the offseason), and he's finished around the basket much stronger than he ever has. ... He can attack the basket in there now, because of his strength and his energy, whereas before he was looking to get a foul."
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