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.
QUICK START: If this seems early for an NBA game, it's only because it is. This is the earliest preseason game Utah has played since Sept. 23, 1980. Utah is getting off to an early start because of its upcoming two-game trip to Europe.
Because camp started on Sept. 26 and the game in London isn't until Oct. 6, the Jazz wanted to squeeze in a home game.
Turned out, Denver was also looking for a game before heading overseas to face Indiana a couple of times in China.
"They were in the same boat that we were," O'Connor said. "It kind of worked out pretty good."
OH SAY CAN YOU SING?: The Jazz will hold auditions to belt out the national anthem at home games on Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at EnergySolutions Arena. Individuals and groups will try out in order of arrival. Those who can't make the live audition can deliver a recorded CD of the anthem to Kelly Crane at the arena by Friday.
PLAYING TIME: Sloan has a simple philosophy for divvying up minutes in the preseason.
"I'm not going to play anybody 40 minutes," he said. "Don't want to get anybody hurt if I can avoid that by playing somebody a long period of time in the exhibition season."
The coach did indicate that guys who "need a chance to play and need a chance to try to make the team" will see plenty of action.
The local television schedule for the Jazz season has not been announced, but fans who want to see the team's first action will have to attend tonight's game in person.
The 7 p.m. preseason-opener at EnergySolutions Arena against Denver will not be televised.
Those listening in to the radio broadcast on 1320-AM will get to hear David Locke's first broadcast as the official radio voice of the Jazz. The sports talkshow personality replaced longtime announcer Hot Rod Hundley, who retired last spring.
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