Utah Jazz thrilled to be back in business

Published: Thursday, Dec. 8 2011 9:49 p.m. MST

Paul Millsap

Mike Terry, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The ominous labor-strife cloud that loomed over NBA cities, teams, players and fans for the past five months finally dissipated Thursday afternoon.

Think Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller is excited about that?

"The lockout's over!" Miller wrote on Twitter. "Let's play ball!"

If Thursday's official ratification of the collective bargaining agreement didn't spread enough sunshine for you, Jazz fans, here are more rays of hope and reasons to be optimistic:

FRESH START

For months, we've heard about the NBPA, CBA, BRI, but in only 21/2 weeks real-live NBA action will return to the court.

"I was going crazy in July," Jazz point guard Devin Harris admitted.

Now, basketball is officially back.

Players, too.

They've trickled back into Utah one by one over the past week or so, but tonight will be the first time since April that returning Jazz guys will be on the same court at the same time.

Eight months after they wrapped up an historical late-season free fall, playoff miss and all of that team turmoil, Jazz players are eager, enthusiastic and hungry to give it another try.

It's redemption time.

They're so excited to get ready for the upcoming basketball buffet, they might not even mind how many wind sprints second-year coach Tyrone Corbin makes them run.

"I'm ready to play, man," Utah guard Raja Bell recently said. "I couldn't be more excited about the prospect of getting back to playing ball. It's been my life for so long now that you kind of feel like a part of you is missing when you don't get a chance to do it."

(Getting paychecks again makes them happy as well, no doubt.)

BIG MAN BONANZA

When people are talking about you having too much of a certain thing and it involves talented big men who demand playing time, that's a good problem to have.

"It's like pitching in baseball," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said of his team's bigs situation. "I don't think you can get enough of it."

Watching Corbin figure out the rotation for this big man staff — and decide who will be the ace and starters and who'll be the middle relief crew — is one of the more intriguing aspects of this season's squeezed schedule.

The Jazz centers include a potential All-Star in Al Jefferson, a rejuvenated former All-Star in Mehmet Okur and a top-three pick in Enes Kanter.

They also feature a pair of powerful forwards in Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, yet another No. 3 draftee.

The fun will be seeing who has the bigger problem — Corbin trying to share minutes or opponents trying to deal with these five guys?

BOSOM BUDDIES

Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans each won over Jazz fans last year.

Hayward first because of his college career at Butler, his frugal car purchase (Honda) and culinary choice (Olive Garden), and then because he played so well down the stretch and dropped 22 on Kobe Bryant in a shocking Jazz win at Los Angeles.

And Evans because of his endless energy and incredible hops.

It will be interesting to see how the pals do now that they're not rookies and don't have to pack around pink princess backpacks (consider yourselves forewarned, Kanter and Alec Burks).

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