Utah Jazz notes: Sloan owns respect of NBA's general managers

Published: Thursday, Oct. 23 2008 12:04 a.m. MDT

The Utah Jazz have the toughest home court in the NBA, one of the toughest players, one of the better pure shooters, one of the league's best passers and another three guys whose play apparently exceeds their athleticism and abilities.

And they are led by one of the most respected coaches around, too.

But, to borrow a Jerry Sloan phrase, it might be a toss up whether it's more fun to watch corn grow or the Jazz hoop it up.

That, at least, about sums up how this year's version of the Jazz are viewed around the league, according to the seventh annual NBA.com GM Survey.

Through a slew of survey questions, general managers around the league shared their opinions on how they see the upcoming season playing out — from the NBA Finals (the Lakers will defeat the Celtics), to who will be crowned MVP (LeBron James), to the most fun team to watch (the Hornets).

For the record, the Jazz were not listed among the top 10 most fun teams, but they did get some love from the participating GMs.

Especially Sloan. Entering his 21st season, the Jazz coach was among the top vote-getters for being best head coach, best manager/motivator, best in-game adjustment maker, best coach in final two minutes of close game, best-run offense, best defensive scheme and best collection of farm equipment. (Not really on that last one.)

EnergySolutions Arena and Jazz fans give Utah best home-court advantage, according to 44.4 percent of the responding GMs.

Jazz players rocked the vote in a category that could be considered a compliment or somewhat of an insult: What player does the most with the least?

Survey says: Mehmet Okur came in a five-way tie for second (with Reggie Evans, Steve Nash, Fabricio Oberto and Luke Walton) behind Bruce Bowen. Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap also received votes for the unofficial Overachievers Club.

Matt Harpring received the third-most votes (7.4 percent, tied with Chris Paul) for being the NBA's toughest player. Houston's Ron Artest won that award.

Kyle Korver was named one of the NBA's best pure shooters (fourth, 7.4 percent), Deron Williams was called the fourth-best passer.

Though the Jazz weren't among the eight teams that received votes for winning the NBA title and weren't one of the four potential Western Conference champions, Utah is considered a heavy favorite to win the Northwest Division (92.6 percent to Portland's 7.4 percent).

HEALTHIER HARPRING: Jazz veteran swingman Matt Harpring again worked on shooting drills with assistant coaches Tyrone Corbin and Scott Layden prior to practice Wednesday, even hitting 16 mid-range jumpers in a row. The 11th year pro still hasn't practiced with the team while recuperating from a post-surgery ankle infection, but Harpring says he can see "improvement" in his physical progress, especially with increased strength and his ability to pivot and run.

Harpring says his explosiveness is still lagging behind because the strep infection penetrated his entire ankle, but he is seeing rewards for his hard rehab work.

"I'm getting better, which is important for me, and important for my mental state," Harpring said.

Though probably unlikely, Harpring isn't ruling out returning by Wednesday's NBA season-opener vs. Denver, but admitted "practice time's an issue, too."

PUNCH HAPPY: Sloan said the coaching staff has adhered to the team's medical staff about limitations (including limited playing time) Harpring has had over the years while he deals with health issues, including knee injuries.

"That doesn't make Matt happy, and he gets upset with us. I want to punch him in the nose when he acts that way," Sloan said with a grin. "No, I know better. He's bigger than I am."

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