They don't always see eye-to-eye, but there is familiarity and mutual respect that has been established over the years between most NBA players, coaches and the referees.
That's why tonight's preseason-opener, which will be called by replacement referees, might be weird for those who have been around the league for a while.
Carlos Boozer said Jazz coaches told the players about the real refs being locked out and suggested that players get to know the newcomers "a little bit."
Boozer then laughed that it might be especially strange for Jerry Sloan.
"Coach has been around so long," Boozer said, "he knows everybody's first, last name, middle name, everything."
Refs could probably attest that the Hall of Fame coach even knows them by names not given at birth.
Welcome to the NBA, replacements. Meet Jerry Sloan.
Even though he admits to getting on the refs every now and then, Sloan is advising his players to let the replacements do their jobs and to leave the occasional outburst to him.
"Just go play," he said.
That's precisely what Jazz players intend to do during games with the fill-ins, who are replacing the 57 whistle-less officials from the National Basketball Referees Association while they hammer out a new labor deal with the league.
"We'll let the NBA take care of that, and we'll just go out and play basketball," Boozer said.
"It is what it is," Deron Williams added. "We can't really control the situation. We've just got to go out there and play, and hopefully they do a good job ... Nobody's ever happy — fans, players, coaches — so they've got a tough job."
Fact is, Jazz general manger Kevin O'Connor re-emphasized, this matter won't be resolved by teams and players. They've just got to make the best of it.
"We have no control over anything that goes on," O'Connor said. "We'll play with whoever's out there and try to adjust accordingly."
He acknowledged the team had received the NBA's memo Tuesday, warning that regular refs remained locked out after the NBRA rejected the latest proposal on Sunday.
Tonight's game is the first of the NBA's preseason, so Utah and Denver get a look at the first replacement refs used since the 1995-96 season.
"I didn't think they'd settle Thursday just to accommodate our exhibition schedule," O'Connor mused.
This will be the third time Sloan has coached with replacements. Sloan was Utah's coach in '95 and was a Chicago Bulls assistant in 1977 when the league used fill-in officials during the playoffs.
The temps might be relieved to hear one thing he remembered from previous experiences.
"I think they (coaches) have a little bit more leniency knowing these guys are not the regular NBA officials," Sloan said. "They probably give them a chance to breathe a little bit more."
INJURY UPDATE: Sloan hadn't worked out a starting lineup as of Wednesday. For one thing, three potential small forward starters missed most of the team's practices this week.
C.J. Miles, a starter most of last season, did return for a full practice Wednesday after missing three days with a strained left hip flexor. Andrei Kirilenko, a starter most of his career, participated in shooting drills but did not engage in full contact after sitting out since Sunday with a strained left quadriceps muscle.
They are "probable" for tonight, a team spokesperson said.
Kyle Korver, however, is listed as "questionable" and has not practiced since Sunday morning due to an inflamed left knee.
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