Almost NBA basketball played in Utah with Jimmer and the Jazz

Published: Monday, Nov. 7 2011 10:40 p.m. MST

Al Jefferson talks with members of the media before the game as members of the Utah Jazz and other NBA players play Monday, Nov. 7, 2011 at Salt Lake Community College's Bruin arena in Taylorsville Utah for charity.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

NBA basketball finally returned to the Beehive State on Monday night.

Well, sort of.

Sure, these were real, honest-to-goodness NBA players running up and down the court at Salt Lake Community College's Lifetime Activities Center on Monday night. But it wasn't really an NBA game, just a great, well-intentioned imitation.

No, thanks to the ongoing lockout and frustrating labor stalemate between the NBA's owners and players, instead of having a chance to watch tonight's scheduled game between the Utah Jazz and the Heat at Miami, fans were treated to something called the Pro Players Charity Classic instead.

Oh, sure, there was plenty of NBA star-power out there throwing down a dazzling array of dunks, popping in 3-pointers like they were nothing more than free throws, flashing some fancy circus shots usually reserved for the playround, and gracefully gliding around the floor like only NBA players can with seemingly less effort than it would take most of us to go walk the dog.

But as fun as it was to watch established NBA players breaking a sweat out on the court again for the first time since the Mavericks cooled the Heat for the world championship last June, it just wasn't quite the same.

Because it was, after all, just an exhibition game, with nothing at stake, although it was a good cause — a fund-raiser for charity.

Indeed, it was somewhat reminiscent of the old Rocky Mountain Revue days, just with much better players — a lot of them. Or like an NBA preseason game in which the front-line stars do more than just make a token appearance.

Guys like Jazz regulars Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, C.J. Miles, Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Eric Watson, Ronnie Price and Jeremy Evans all saw action, along with last summer's Utah draft picks, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks — who certainly showed that he can light up the scoreboard to the tune of 29 points.

Plus former Jazzman Wesley Matthews and other "name" Jazz opponents like Chauncey Billups, Stephen Curry, Corey Maggette and Anthony Tolliver.

And the Beehive State's favorite basketball-playing son, former BYU superstar Jimmer Fredette.

Zach Payne, a 13-year-old from Kaysville, was among the nearly 3,000 fans on hand. Proudly wearing a Fredette T-shirt, Payne said his family used to own Jazz season-tickets, and he felt like $47 was a small price to pay for a front-row seat to watch Fredette and others strut their stuff.

"I'm a big Jimmer fan," said Payne, who purchased his ticket a week ahead of time. "I went to a couple of his games at BYU. ... My favorite player on the Jazz is Paul Millsap. We used to have season-tickets to go watch him, so that was always fun.

"It was worth it, I think. It was pretty exciting.

"It's kind of boring without NBA basketball," said Payne, a 5-foot-8 center for his Junior Darts team. "It seems kind of empty without it."

Zach Gondek, 30, of Salt Lake City, was in attendance wearing a No. 24 Millsap jersey in honor of "one of his favorite players." A Jazz season-ticket holder for the last five years, he misses NBA basketball a bunch these days and thoroughly enjoyed Monday night's exhibition.

"I thought it was awesome," Gondek said. "It's been a little hard during the lockout. Thank goodness there's NFL football. Without football, it'd be a long winter.

"I could see one of these a month and be happy. I just enjoyed the game itself, watching the players interact with each other. There was a lot of horsing around and playing around."

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