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Utah Jazz: Players begin voluntary workouts in Salt Lake

Published: Friday, Dec. 2 2011 12:26 a.m. MST

Devin Harris has the gym to himself at the Utah Jazz practice at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 1, 2011. This is the first day NBA players were allowed back into their teams' facilities.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time since July 1, the Utah Jazz opened up their training facility to NBA players Thursday morning.

But for the first 15 minutes of a two-hour window in which media were allowed to watch and talk to players at Zions Bank Basketball Center, the only Jazz employees present were a strength coach, a trainer and a public relations boss.

Point guard Devin Harris was the first player to show up at about 10:15 a.m. for a voluntary individual workout, making the media-to-player ratio an overwhelming 15-to-1.

"As long as the gym's open," Harris said, "I've got to use it."

In order, Paul Millsap, C.J. Miles and free agent Ronnie Price later arrived to seize the long-overdue opportunity to break a sweat on their practice court.

"This feels great to be back," Millsap said. "It feels good to know that the season's going to start. It didn't start on time like everybody wanted to, but it's here."

A trimmed-down Miles was also giddy to be able to shoot hoops in an NBA building again.

"(It's been) a long time. A real long time," Miles said. "It's good to be back in here, man. It's that feeling that we're getting ready to start up. The adrenaline is running like crazy right now, just being in here. I'm just ready to get started, ready to play some games."

Millsap and Harris predicted most of the 11 Jazz players under contract (including to-be-signed rookies) will arrive for semi-organized workouts early next week.

Until the NBA's collective bargaining agreement is ratified — and the lockout officially called off by owners — players can only have interaction during workouts with the team's training staff, not coaches.

If all goes as expected, teams will begin training camps on Dec. 9. The Jazz begin their two-game preseason Dec. 19 in Portland. The condensed 66-game NBA season begins on Dec. 25, although it's uncertain when Utah's squeezed schedule will tip off.

"I don't think guys will complain once they get back to basketball," Harris said, "because obviously we've been off long enough."

Though Harris admitted it "hurts" to miss paychecks — the first on Nov. 15, the second on Thursday — there were some benefits to the prolonged offseason.

"I got to go trick-or-treating with my nephews. I never get to do that type of stuff," said a smiling Harris, who's in town for a couple of days to go house-hunting. "Things normally we're playing and we don't get to do. … It was good to eat grandma's cooking and see the family during Thanksgiving."

Don't get him wrong. Harris is plenty thankful time off is over, while practicing and playing time is about to begin.

Harris shrugged off the possibility that there could be collateral damage as far as resentment between players and owners, who spent months bickering publicly about how to split billions of dollars at the expense of losing games and alienating some fans.

"We're just excited about basketball right now, and that's the most important thing," Harris said. "Whether there's resentment, I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. But I think guys are just excited to get back in the arenas and fill them up again."

Millsap doesn't believe Jazz fans will hold it against their favorite team.

"I don't think the Utah fans will resent it," he said. "I think they know that, which everybody should know, it's a business. Things like that happen in the corporate world."

Millsap admitted it was nice to see Harris — and others — return to the training facility and get/continue to work. The Louisiana Tech product believes the Jazz have a hard-working group.

"It's good to see guys come in early to get a jump on things," he said. "Our team, we've got guys they may not be here but they're somewhere getting better, working out."

All the better that they now have a familiar place to do that in town.

Tickets available

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz fans can see their team in action twice in five days for $8 before the season starts if they do it right.

Seats for the team's home preseason game against Portland on Dec. 21 start at $8 (up to $100). Tickets are available at utahjazz.com or by calling 801-355-DUNK.

Fans won't need tickets for the Jazz's free intrasquad scrimmage, which will take place Dec. 17. EnergySolutions Arena doors will open to the public at 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. event.

The Jazz's two-game exhibition slate — pending ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement — also includes a stop in Portland on Dec. 19.

The full NBA schedule will be released in a live NBA-TV special Tuesday at 5 p.m.

— Jody Genessy

Email: jody@desnews.com Twitter: DJJazzyJody

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