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Utah Jazz: Sloan is ready to welcome embattled Boozer back to team

Coach is looking forward to season

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2009 1:03 a.m. MDT

Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan talks with the media about Hall of Fame, upcoming season.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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Jerry Sloan will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame next weekend, but the Jazz coach admitted he is looking forward to another event on the horizon.

And it isn't the unveiling of the 2010 John Deere line or a weekend hunting trip with Greg Ostertag.

More like the rapidly approaching NBA season.

Jazz players and coaches will report to fall camp in just over three weeks, with their first practice likely to happen the final weekend of September. Even the preseason opener is less than a month away, as Utah plays host to Denver on Oct. 1.

Sloan, who on Tuesday said he's been thinking "a lot" about the 2009-10 hoops year, is ready to welcome Carlos Boozer back into the fold, as well. No hard feelings, no crying over milk on the floor, no ill will over his player's professed love for other NBA franchises.

"In order to win in this league, you have to have good players," Sloan said. "And he's a good player."

The soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer — Sloan, that is — said that, knowing his power forward kicked up some offseason dust by opting into the final year of his contract with the Jazz and then going public with a claim that he'd be traded this offseason.

"My job is to coach whoever's here. That hasn't changed," Sloan said. "If we lose 56 games, I've got to coach the same (with) the people that are on the roster. We'll do everything we can to make it work.

"Now, will we be perfect? Probably not."

It wouldn't be the first time Sloan has had to coach a power forward coming off of a vocal offseason.

"I could have had hard feelings with Karl Malone if I would have wanted to a few times," Sloan said, recalling some of Malone's infamous offseason rants with former owner Larry H. Miller. "My job is to coach whoever walks across this line. That's all we'll do is do the best we can and hopefully be a good basketball team."

If Boozer indeed remains a Jazzman this season, there will be some obvious challenges, seeing as Utah will also welcome back the ever-improving Paul Millsap after matching Portland's four-year, $32-million offer sheet to retain the up-and-coming power forward.

Still, Sloan can't wait for his guys to hit the hardwood again.

"Yeah, I'm excited about our season," he said.

Sloan is even optimistic about the chances of the Jazz, who were eliminated in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs by the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in April.

"If," he added, "we can get everybody healthy and everybody ready to play, let's see what happens."

SUTON SIGNS: Second-round pick Goran Suton has signed a one-year contract with the Jazz, agent Dan Tobin confirmed on Tuesday. Details of the deal were not released, but it is believed to be non-guaranteed. The Jazz have 13 players on their roster with guaranteed contracts, not counting the Michigan State center, who was drafted 50th overall by Utah in June. If Suton's contract is — or becomes — guaranteed, it would still leave the Jazz one guy shy of the 15-player maximum.

FEELING BETTER: Sloan was in good spirits while talking to the media about his upcoming Hall of Fame induction. One reason: He's simply feeling better physically.

Sloan suffered post-surgery complications, including blood clots, after having his right knee replaced on April 30. He joked Tuesday that he has worried more about his knee than dealing with Hall of Fame-related obligations.

"Yeah, it's fine now," he said. "It's tremendously better than what it was."

A bonus: His back, which bothered him last year, as well, has also improved.

His healing secret?

"I always knew farming could help me out a lot," Sloan deadpanned, referring to his offseason home and farm in McCleansboro, Ill. "I went back there and worked on the farm for a couple of weeks."

WHEN ON ROME: Point guard Deron Williams will be a guest on "The Jim Rome Show" today at noon. Remember, though, the popular national sports-talk program now airs on 1320 KFAN.

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

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