SALT LAKE CITY —It's just a preseason game. Doesn't mean a thing in the standings. In the grand scheme, nobody will ever remember it.
But count Gordon Hayward among the guys who are "excited" to step on the court tonight in the exhibition opener against the Portland Trail Blazers.
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun playing in our first game," the rookie swingman said at Wednesday's practice. "l'm kind of happy that it's at home ... that will be cool to play in the arena finally, and have it be a legit first game."
The three Jazz rookies — second-round pick Jeremy Evans and undrafted Ryan Thompson being the other first-year players — aren't the only ones looking forward to getting the preseason going.
Center Al Jefferson, Utah's biggest offseason acquisition, has been pumped up to play in front of Utah fans since he was traded to the Jazz from Minnesota in July.
"I'm really excited just to walk into that arena and see all them fans, man," a smiling and sweating Jefferson said before practice.
Jefferson was still stunned at how many fans, somewhere in the 5,000-6,000 range, showed up for Saturday's scrimmage.
"Just to see all of the people come and support us for that, man, just imagine how the preseason game's going to be, then the regular season game, then the playoffs," Jefferson said. "I love the support that we get out here."
Seven players will make their debuts in Jazz uniforms tonight, while Raja Bell will make his return after playing here from 2003-05.
"It's amazing how (on) this team, everybody's on the same page and has a positive attitude, and everyone wants to help one another," Jefferson said. "That's a wonderful feeling."
All the newness, though, could be evident when the team plays together for the first time. The Jazz are still learning offensive plays and read options.
Coach Jerry Sloan said he's curious to see how his players — from the young guys to the veteran newcomers — implement what they've been practicing and how they react and adjust to their opponent.
Hayward doesn't feel too much pressure heading into his first sort-of-real pro game.
"I think if we go out there and execute and play hard," he said, "the result will take care of itself."
Added Thompson: "I've got a little nerves going on a little bit — first real game. I want to just be a role player, do what I've got to do to stay on the floor, play defense, knock down open shots when necessary and just run the offense."
ILL D-WILL:Deron Williams did not practice Wednesday because of "gastric distress," a team spokesman said. The All-Star point guard is considered"probable" tonight.
HIGH PRAISE: Jerry Sloan joked that 6-foot-6 C.J. Miles looked "taller" upon his return to practice Tuesday after missing Monday with a sprained left wrist. Then, only a few days after voicing his displeasure with Miles, the Jazz coach sent a compliment the swingman's way.
"He had a really good practice," said Sloan, who repeated that sentence for emphasis. "I was glad to see it because he hadn't practiced for a day or so, and I thought he got after it on the defensive end really good. We need that out of everybody."4 comments on this story
Miles, still sporting a small brace in the aftermath of Saturday's injury, said he felt good Wednesday and "wasn't too sore." He continues icing his wrist to minimize swelling.
EN ESPANOL: Spanish-speaking Jazz fans got buena noticia Wednesday. That good news: For the first time in franchise history, regular season games, playoffs and three home preseason games will be broadcast in Spanish this year on AM 1600 ESPN Deportes. Fernando Hortal (play-by-play) and Nelson Moran (analyst) will call games, and Dan Clayton will do sideline reporting for Utah's home games.