Utah Jazz: Jerry Sloan eager for team to reacquire its focus
SALT LAKE CITY — Jerry Sloan didn't love talking about winning 1,000 games as the Utah Jazz's head coach when he notched that milestone in 2008, and he wasn't fond of elaborating about entering the Basketball Hall of Fame last year.
Knowing that, Sloan's response to a TV reporter's tongue-in-cheek suggestion Friday morning that recording his first perfect preseason must be quite meaningful was hardly surprising.
"Are you crazy?" Sloan quipped.
The Jazz coach was consistent in not acting too amped up after the Jazz downed Sacramento later that night to complete the franchise's best-ever 8-0 preseason mark.
While he'd rather win games than lose 'em, Sloan would also rather watch his players play, compete and execute the way he believes they must to be successful when it really counts in the regular season.
Sloan hopes the Jazz regain their focus — something that's been missing since cuts were made early Thursday — beginning this morning at practice. Utah took Saturday off and will have a couple of days to tune up before Wednesday's season-opener in Denver.
"I'm not worried," Sloan said. "I think this team is capable. It's just a matter of hopefully they all buy into it because we need everybody to do it. That's the only way we've ever been able to win."
Sloan was unhappy with his players' offensive selfishness Friday, and he thought the defensive effort was also lacking because the Kings often got any shot they wanted. Utah was fortunate, however, that Sacramento hucked up more shots (72) than points scored in the Jazz's 82-71 win.
Those lapses on defense are a cause for concern for the Jazz heading into the 2010-11 campaign, which begins against three dangerous offensive teams in the Nuggets, Thursday's home-opener opponent Phoenix and Oklahoma City on Halloween.
"We have to be a little bit more focused on defensive help," starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko said.
While flaws need to be worked on, the Jazz are mostly content they're heading into the season on a roll — especially when considering six of their 13 players were not on the roster last year.
"It's good that we're learning how to win together and we're all expecting to win, but (the preseason) doesn't count," starting shooting guard Raja Bell said. "So we need to go back the next couple of days and shore up some stuff offensively and defensively.
"It's a lot tougher in the regular season, so we'll have to come out with even more of an attitude and more of a fire in our belly."
Added Paul Millsap: "Even though it's preseason and the wins don't mean anything, a win is still a win. We saw some things that we want to improve on, but we also did a lot of things right."
FOND MEMORIES: Asked what he liked most about his team's 8-0 preseason, Sloan offered this unexpected answer after Friday's win: "I liked the guys we cut."
Sloan was referring, of course, to Sundiata Gaines, Othyus Jeffers, Demetris Nichols and Ryan Thompson. They were waived by the Jazz before what he called "a soft practice" Thursday and a less-than-stellar Friday night showing.
"I thought," Sloan added about the ex-Jazz guys, "they played hard."
CENTER OF ATTENTION: Kyrylo Fesenko had another strong outing Friday. He hit all six shots, including some impressive spin moves he now effectively uses as a scoring weapon.
One of his best inside buckets was made possible after a flashy assist by Ronnie Price.
"Tonight I got a chance to show what I can do. I'm happy," Fesenko said after his 12-point performance. "My teammates really did a good job passing me the ball, especially (Price's) ridiculous behind-the-back bounce pass."
HE TWEETED IT: C.J. Miles gave this update on Twitter about his health status a day after spraining his right ankle: "I'm good everybody just got some treatment … No biggie just a sprain plus im #texasmade we built tuff like ford lol."
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