Utah Jazz: Underdog Jazz hoping to shock the world in 1st round
Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Jerry Sloan raised eyebrows the other day for saying the Utah Jazz's playoff situation "looks pretty bleak."
At practice Thursday, Deron Williams even admitted it might "shock the world" if the eighth-seeded Jazz somehow and someway overcame the bleakness to upset the Los Angeles Lakers in Round 1.
But an underwhelming regular season — especially the late free-fall — is all in the rear-view mirror as far as an optimistic Sloan is concerned.
"Nobody cares what you did yesterday," he said at practice Thursday. "Bottom line is what you do the next time you step on the floor. A lot of things can change. Attitudes can change."
Now he only hopes his team's tendencies — to struggle on defense and at Staples Center against the Lakers, where they've lost nine in a row — will change as well.
Or it'll turn pretty bleak pretty quickly.
Oh, yes, about that … Sloan backpedaled a bit from his pessimistic outlook — even if others credited him for being realistic.
Sloan said he was simply repeating what the media and the masses have been saying with his "bleak" speak, which came moments after the Jazz lost to the Lakers in the regular-season finale Tuesday.
"I was listening to what everybody told me," he said. "You look around and it's all everybody says, 'How you going to beat these guys? It's virtually impossible.' "
That, however, is not how Sloan sees it.
"The season's not over. As gloomy as it appears, as everybody says, the bottom line is, you've just gotta go play," Sloan added. "Hopefully, players are energized by the fact there's 14 teams already home and you don't want to be the 15th team."
M*A*S*H UNIT (AGAIN): The Jazz, who missed a total of 147 man-games due to injury and illness this season, began preparing for the first round as underdogs and undermanned.
Matt Harpring missed Jazz practice Thursday with a nasal infection, while Mehmet Okur (mild right hamstring strain) and C.J. Miles (dislocated left index finger) sat out of practice while nursing injuries that forced them out of the Lakers' game.
Okur and Miles, who didn't practice but did cardio work at the training center, officially remain game-time decisions for Sunday's Round 1 opener at the Staples Center. Harpring's return is also uncertain.
Okur is hopeful his still-hurting hammy, injured Monday against the Clippers, will loosen up in time to play.
"I still feel sore and pain," Okur said. "And it's tight, and we're still going to get treatment and see how I feel before the game."
Miles has missed five of the past six games due to the injury on his shooting hand. In a different treatment technique, the usual starting small forward wore a hand pad and wrapped his index and middle fingers together.
"Feeling better … ," he said. "We're going to try to different things, and hopefully I can get enough soreness out where I can be able to be effective."
KOUFOS CALL-UP?: With Okur and Miles sidelined and Kosta Koufos and Morris Almond both playing for the Utah Flash, the Jazz only dressed 11 players Tuesday in L.A. Because of their injury situation, the Jazz have considered recalling Koufos, their seldom-used rookie center, up from his D-League assignment.
"We don't know yet," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said. "It's a thought that we've had."
The Flash play their second-round game at home Monday, between Games 1 and 2 of the Jazz-Lakers series.
PAWN FOR TNT: Williams is one of several NBA stars who will promote TNT's playoff coverage that will include "40 Games in 40 Nights." The Jazz guard was recently filmed playing chess along with other players for upcoming promos. TNT will switch opponents as the playoffs progress and opponents change.
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