C.J. Miles has probably never been more excited to show up to the Jazz's practice facility as he was Wednesday morning.
The small forward finally received medical clearance to fully participate in practice after missing most of the past two months with a left thumb injury, and he was all smiles.
"I'm just glad to be back," Miles said.How glad? Think first-day-of-school, getting-a-new-video-game, Christmas morning-for-young-kids giddy.
"I'm anxious for practice more than I (am) for the game," Miles admitted. "I (am) anxious to be able to play, period. I feel like today's a game day."
Miles, who had surgery to repair a ruptured ligament on Oct. 7 in New York, injured his thumb while diving for a loose ball during a practice when the Jazz were in London this preseason. He hasn't seen action since scoring 16 points in the first exhibition game on Oct. 1.
The southpaw wore a cast on his shooting hand for a month and has been rehabbing since getting it removed three weeks ago. He is still sporting a brace on his thumb.
The 22-year-old believes it won't take him long to get back into playing shape. He's been doing cardio conditioning all along and can hit the weights again.
"Of course I lost a little bit because you just can't replace playing in a game," he said. "But I did a lot of running and everything I could do to stay (in) as much shape as I could. ... I think as far as basketball, it's just like riding a bike."
Coach Jerry Sloan said he'll have to evaluate how Miles looks in practices before deciding whether or not to reinsert him in the starting lineup over rookie swingman Wesley Matthews, who's started the past nine games. Sloan hinted that he isn't necessarily inclined to make changes to the starting five even though Miles started last season.
"I'm anxious to see him practice," Sloan said. "I've gotta see where he is."
The Jazz coach admits his job is about to get harder now that injured players are beginning to return and playing time will be tougher to divvy out — something he won't complain about.
"Wes has done a pretty good job, so I give him an opportunity to play. C.J. has more experience," Sloan said. "We'll just have to see where we are, because we've been trying to get through the fact that we haven't had enough guys."
Miles is just happy to be in the mix again, so he isn't concerned whether he starts or has a reserve role. He just wants to play.
"I doubt it," Miles said when asked if he'll resume his starting role. "Why would I the way Wes and (Ronnie) Brewer are playing and the guys have been playing. I wouldn't even want to be that guy to come in and mess up the chemistry.
"I just want to come in and help," Miles added. "I know they're shorthanded at the wing position, so there's definitely minutes there. But at the same time, I'm just going to play, stay within my game and do whatever I can do to help the team keep winning games."
Miles' teammates were happy to have him back in the fold — and, yes, that includes Matthews.
"He's another veteran guy. He's another guy that's been through trials, tribulations," Matthews said of Miles. "He's a great player. He's a playmaker."
"It's going to be great," Deron Williams added. "We were expecting a big year from C.J. before he got hurt. I know he was disappointed. We were disappointed. It gives us an added outside threat that we need and are lacking, just another scorer."
Matthews isn't worried that his playing time might drop.
"I'm excited for C.J. to be back because that just helps the team. I'm all about the team," Matthews said. "And what's going to happen to me? I don't know. I can't tell you that. Only thing I can tell you is I'm going to be the same person and do the same things that I've been doing."
On the other hand, Miles is ecstatic he won't be doing the same thing he's done so far this season — wearing sports coats on the sideline.
"I've been sitting there behind that bench for weeks," Miles said. "I was having flashbacks to my first two years. I didn't like that at all."
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