Utah Jazz players have 28 days to shape up before regular season
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — There weren't any outbursts a la Karl Malone's infamous description of a certain center's overly cushy seat from way back when.
In fact, the biggest guy on the Utah Jazz's roster, Kyrylo Fesenko, reported to camp weighing 25 pounds less than he did a year ago.
Even though nobody showed up looking like they'd spent the summer snacking on Twinkies, Jerry Sloan admitted that not every Jazz player arrived in tip-top physical condition by NBA playing standards.
"In shape for shaking hands" is how Sloan jokingly described players' fitness levels after watching them do conditioning drills during the morning session Tuesday.
"But," Sloan added, "to play a basketball game, there's some of them not ready."
Even so, the Jazz coach didn't seem too concerned about his team's shape — for now. His job over the next four weeks, Sloan said, is to help get the players as fit as fine-tuned fiddles before the season-opener on Oct. 27.
"(It's) not anything drastic or anything we need to discuss," Sloan said. "I'm not going to worry about it at this point."
One worry Sloan has, though, is that injuries tend to happen to more often to guys who aren't in the greatest shape.
Sloan said players have different reasons for coming in less than ideally fit to go full speed. For one, some new guys just don't grasp what it's like to go through a demanding Jazz camp on the first try.
"We've had that happen a lot, where guys are in much better shape the second year than they are the first," he said.
Sloan cited former power forward Donyell Marshall, who improved after a slow start in Utah, as being a prime example of that from his coaching past.
STARTING POINT: Spirits seemed high as players huddled up at the end of the morning session and cheered, "Jazz!" The workout was the first half of three straight days of two-a-days at Zions Bank Basketball Center for the 17-player squad.
"Good first practice," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "Definitely excited to get the season kicked off."
Assistant coach Phil Johnson helped the team implement elements of offense along with conditioning drills. Players got their first contact practice in the night session.
With so many newcomers — eight of the 17 players are going through their first Utah camp — the Jazz admit there is a steeper learning curve than in falls past when there was less offseason movement.
"It's a little different this year with some of the guys we're missing, but I'm excited," Williams said. "I'm excited about the group we have. I think we got a little stronger, a little tougher.
"The practices are different because there's a lot more teaching going on right now," he added. "Last year, everybody knew the offense."
JAZZ ON TV: FSN Utah will televise 79 of the team's 82 regular-season games, and all will be in HD. The other three will be broadcast on TNT, the Jazz announced.
Also, only two of the eight preseason games will be televised — Oct. 12. at Phoenix and Oct. 22 vs. Sacramento.
It was also officially announced that Matt Harpring has joined the TV broadcast team with Craig Bolerjack for the "majority" of games, as the Deseret News previously reported.
Ron Boone will also return for a 23rd season with the franchise. He'll do some TV games but will mostly work as a radio analyst with David Locke.
SNEAK PEEK: The Jazz shared more info about Saturday's open scrimmage at EnergySolutions Arena. It will begin at noon (doors open at 11:30 a.m.) and will be free to the public.
Bolerjack will interview each player prior to the scrimmage and do a short Q&A with fans.
Fans are encouraged to use public transportation because traffic is expected to be high due to LDS general conference.
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