Michael Brandy, Deseret News archives
SALT LAKE CITY — He hasn't been in their basketball shoes since 1965 when he was a rookie with Baltimore, but Jerry Sloan empathizes with NBA newcomers.
"It's hard," he admitted.
And the Utah Jazz coach's reasons for feeling for the likes of Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans range from physical, psychological to downright practical.
That's why he is in no rush to throw rookies in the mix too quickly.
"Guys are trying to figure out where the building is," Sloan said.
That statement elicited chuckles from media at Saturday's practice, but it came out of Sloan's mouth more simple matter-of-fact, even metaphorical, than tongue-in-cheek.
It's challenging enough just getting your bearings straight in a new situation, including being able to find the training room, Sloan said — and that's not to mention the difficulty of trying to learn and implement complex, fast-moving NBA ways and plays.
So making players "comfortable" at first is key, Sloan said.
"As corny as that sounds," the Hall of Fame coach added, "if you go into the building and don't know where the bathroom is, it's kind of frightening — more so as you get older."
Sloan might not have been just kidding about that last part.
Another learning experience is approaching for the Jazz youngsters. The team leaves this afternoon for back-to-back games in Portland (Monday) and Phoenix (Tuesday), and the coach believes early road trips are invaluable for rookies.
"It's good, I think, for young guys," Sloan said. "I've always felt it's important for them to get a feel for what's going on in the league, how it is, see what they're doing, see how you travel.
"All those things," he added, "help make them a little bit comfortable."
It remains to be seen if their more-experienced teammates take away the rooks' comfort level by making them tote around their bags per NBA tradition.
ANOTHER 'DISTRESS' SIGNAL: For the second time in three days, the Jazz sent a player home with what the team's training staff lists as "gastric distress."
Center Al Jefferson arrived to the Jazz's training facility Saturday morning but returned home with stomach issues. Jefferson is expected to travel with the team today.
Deron Williams suffered similar under-the-weather symptoms, and missed practice Wednesday but bounced back to play in Thursday's preseason opener.
Raja Bell also had a bit of stomach discomfort during Thursday's game. He said it wasn't a big deal and happened because he changed up his eating routine.
ON COACH'S WATCH: Sloan enjoys this time of year because it gives him a chance to observe young players. So, what is he watching for?
"Who steps out there and plays. They're under the pressure to come out and play," the coach said. "People talk about playing in this league all their life until they get here. Then they realize, 'Wow, this is a lot of hard work.'
"And you find that out right away — who can withstand the work that's involved to make yourself better every day. Not a lot of people can."
Those players who do put in the effort will, Sloan added, "make themselves better."
Along those lines, Sloan again complimented the young players with the Jazz on Saturday.
STILL SIDELINED: Francisco Elson sat out practice again due to his strained right hamstring. The backup big man will go with the Jazz on the road, though it's uncertain if he'll play because of his hurt hammy. Elson hasn't practiced or played since injuring his leg during Thursday's shootaround.
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