Utah Jazz: Paul Millsap itching to get back into action

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 11:01 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Paul Millsap's injury — or whatever he's calling his right quadriceps tendinitis — is improving.

He shot around before practice Thursday, and hopes to rejoin the Jazz soon — and definitely in time for Tuesday's season-opener against the Lakers.

"No doubt," Millsap said. "I'll be able to play."

His coach won't commit yet, but Millsap sees himself in the starting lineup again. Even with an emerging post player in Utah — Derrick Favors — Millsap considers himself a starting NBA power forward.

"Obviously, obviously, but other people might see different," Millsap said. "People have their own opinions about things."

Second-year coach Tyrone Corbin has avoided anointing last year's starting four — or anyone — as a sure-bet starter.

That's by design, too, to keep players giving max effort to win minutes and prioritized roster placement.

Millsap is willing to put his personal preference to the side if it helps the team.

"That's the man. He's the head coach," Millsap said. "Either you like it or you don't like it. Whatever happens, you just got to deal with it."

One option Corbin had considered ended Thursday when Utah traded Mehmet Okur to New Jersey. Memo started with center Al Jefferson in Monday's preseason game.

More impressive that night, however, was Favors' 25-point, 12-rebound performance.

That made having the reliable Millsap come off the bench behind the 20-year-old promising forward seem like a stronger possibility. That scenario could help Favors, Wednesday's starter, develop and beef up Utah's seemingly deep reserve squad.

"If (coach's) opinion," Millsap said, "is to bring me off the bench ... and help our team more, I'll be OK with that or whatever."

Corbin lauded Millsap for having a "tremendous" camp after his name surfaced in trade rumors.

"Paul is a pro. He's going to do everything we ask him to do, and he's done that," Corbin said. "He's been everything that we've thought he would be. It's unfortunate his (quad)'s a little sore now, but I expect he'll be back as soon as he's healthy."

WEARY GENTLEMEN: Corbin admitted Thursday would have been an ideal off day for his players.

No such luck.

With the blink-and-you-missed-it preseason over and the crazily condensed schedule only five days away, the Jazz returned to the practice court and film room less than 12 hours after their 92-89 exhibition win.

"There's still a sense of urgency," Corbin said, "to get as far up to speed as we can as early as we can, so we have a chance to compete and win."

That included Thursday's light practice and "full speed" workouts today, Saturday and Monday.

Santa Corbin will give his players Christmas Day off.

That will be the only preseason rest day for the Jazz. They've practiced daily since Dec. 9, including five two-a-day sessions.

"We've worked hard from the ninth till now," Corbin said. "We're just trying to get our bodies back now. Guys are sore."

Because of the rough schedule, including six games in the first eight days, Corbin wants players to feel what it's like to be forced to play tired.

FOR STARTERS?: Corbin used two opening lineups, but he will narrow in on a more structured starting five this weekend.

"We'll tighten it up (Friday), a little bit more Saturday," Corbin said. "We'll be ready by Tuesday to get the guys understanding who's going to start so we can go into the game familiar with that rotation of that group of guys on the floor at the same time."

But, he added, the Jazz will need contributions from as many players as possible because of the compressed 66-game schedule, so it's important to bring all 13 guys along, including the team's fresher faces.

Email: jody@desnews.com

Twitter: DJJazzyJody

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