SALT LAKE CITY — He played 14 minutes in the Jazz's season-opener, then three the next night against Phoenix. He played just two minutes in Utah's first victory of the season, at Oklahoma City on Sunday, then logged 16 in Wednesday's win over Toronto.
Welcome to Ronnie Price's pro life.
"He's one of those guys who can be ready no matter what. And that's what you've got to love about him," teammate Deron Williams said. "No matter if he plays two minutes or if he plays 20 minutes, he's gonna be ready to play every night."
Price sure was prepared Wednesday, when he scored 11 points off the bench and shot 4-for-6 from the field at home against the Raptors.
With a few assists, a couple steals, a block, a 3-pointer, a rebound and one jaw-dropping, left-handed dunk for which he soared high over the basket, the undrafted Utah Valley product reminded everyone how he's carved an NBA career out of super hops, a good feel for the game and a penchant for providing a spark whenever — it sure seems — the Jazz need one most.
"He's been alive ever since he's been here," coach Jerry Sloan said of Price, who is early in his sixth NBA season and fourth with the Jazz. "That's what you like about Ronnie."
Sloan has mostly been using veteran offseason free-agent signee Earl Watson as his first choice to back up All-Star Williams.
But he turned to Price, not Watson, to spell Williams for the first two minutes of the fourth quarter during what was then a 12-point game in the home-opening loss to Phoenix. And he used the 6-foot-2 combo guard quite effectively at shooting guard next to Williams against Toronto on Wednesday, when matchups allowed the Jazz coach to get away with a smaller backcourt.
"I think playing 2-guard gave him a little bit more confidence, when he was playing with Deron," said Sloan, whose 2-2 team visits Golden State tonight. "Deron found him a couple times for shots. He made some good plays defensively, and gave us a nice lift."
Opponents playing bigger off-guards, though, don't always allow Sloan to get away with going so small.
"You run into a mismatch there size-wise," he said, "so I'll probably try to go bigger and keep (Price) where we think is best ... But the effort, I know, will be there (when he is used). That's what you look for — and need."
Not knowing when one's name might be called is not an easy thing for most NBA reserves.
But Price seems to have mastered the art of responding to inconsistent minutes with consistent effort, and for that he thanks those who know him best.
"It's my sixth year, so I think I've seen every angle that you can probably see from a player's standpoint. So there's nothing that I'm not prepared for," the Texas native said. "Plus, I have so many great people that are surrounding me — my family, friends, who just keep me motivated throughout the season. So I'm never really worried about it.
"It's more of a mindset, and a way you prepare yourself. It kind of comes with age, it comes with experience.
"One thing I've learned, and people have said to me — you can't control things, you can't get mad over things you can't control," Price added. "So I'm just excited to be part of an organization, excited to be on a team, and if there's any way possible that I can help this team win games, I mean, that's what I'm here for."
No matter how many minutes he might play from one night to the next and no matter if it's him running the point with Williams or another guard scoring on the wing or if it's him playing the 2 with Williams or even Watson at the point, he's there.
"Coach Sloan makes the decision on who needs to be in the game at the right times," Price said Thursday. "We accept those decisions, and we have to be professional about it, and that's one thing I pride myself on."
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