Utah Jazz fine-tune roster, team
Utah cuts 2 more as it faces the Kings in final preseason game
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A busy day of comings and goings at Jazz camp Thursday ended with two free agents looking for work, one shooting guard staying home with a bad back and another headed out of town for a second opinion on his sore knee.
And when the smoke finally cleared, it appeared veteran small forward Andrei Kirilenko could be coming off the bench and headed back into the opening lineup — while power forward Paul Millsap, who got a new four-year, $32 million contract in the offseason, watches at the start.
"I don't have a problem starting, I don't have a problem coming off the bench," said Kirilenko, a reserve for 57 of the 67 games played last season — but a starter in all but 10 of the 330 in which he played for the five seasons prior to that.
"It's not a different mind-set," the eight-season veteran added. "It's just like, you're coming off the bench, you're expecting one thing; you can start, you expect a little different. But it's not a big change in total perspective of the game. You just come to win."
If Thursday's activities are any indication, however, there's no telling who will be available when the Jazz open the 2009-10 NBA season Wednesday night at Denver.
One day after waiving free agents Spencer Nelson and Alexander Johnson along with 2009 second-round draft choice Goran Suton, the Jazz said they also had released journeyman swingman Ronald Dupree and fellow free agent Paul Harris.
Harris — a rookie guard from Syracuse — never did take part in training camp or play in a preseason game, having sprained an ankle before camp got under way.
Dupree — who's played 154 NBA games for four teams over five seasons, and finished last season with the NBA Development League's Utah Flash — lost a camp battle with undrafted rookie swingman Wesley Matthews, though the Jazz on Thursday weren't ready to say Matthews had made their opening-night roster.
With five roster hopefuls gone; last season's starting small forward, C.J. Miles, still recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured thumb ligament; and veteran small forward Matt Harpring still back home in Atlanta with chronic knee and ankle injuries that likely have ended his career, the Jazz had just 10 healthy players at practice Thursday.
That's because swingman Ronnie Brewer, Utah's starter at shooting guard last season; and backup shooting guard Kyle Korver were absent, too.
Brewer was out because of muscle spasms in a back that apparently bothered him Wednesday as well. He did not travel with the team to Sacramento on Thursday, and will not play tonight in the Jazz's preseason finale against the Kings.
Korver has headed out of town to seek a second medical opinion on his ailing left knee, which has kept him from playing in all but one of Utah's seven exhibition games to date. The 3-point specialist has been bothered all month by inflammation, an apparent result of damaged cartilage under the kneecap.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan had been thinking about perhaps starting Korver at shooting guard and Brewer at small forward in order to inject better shooting in Utah's opening lineup, but because of the uncertainty over Korver's availability, he now seems to be leaning toward sticking with Brewer at the 2 spot and turning to Kirilenko at the 3.
That also means Millsap — a candidate to start when training camp got under way late last month — would come off the bench behind two-time NBA All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer.
"I might start Andrei (Kirilenko), which I didn't do last year, and bring Paul (Millsap) off the bench," Sloan said when asked Thursday how the Miles and Korver injuries have impacted his anticipated regular-season rotation.
"We've got to have somebody give us some lift off the bench, and Paul's an instant starter whenever he steps on the floor," the Jazz coach added. "Those kinds of people are pretty valuable to you to be able to come off the bench."
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