HOUSTON — Paul Millsap, C.J. Miles and Josh Howard have had better days.
Not that they're to be fully blamed for recent Utah Jazz woes — heck, there's plenty of blame to go around — but these three veterans' struggles and slumps have somewhat mirrored the Jazz's recent slide from an overachieving team in playoff territory to lottery land.
Millsap expects a lot from himself, and being an All-Star is one of his expectations. As such, the sixth-year power forward admitted the build-up and letdown surrounding a possible All-Star selection affected him.
"You try not to let things like that get to you, but you set goals for yourself and when you don't accomplish the goals you set out, it takes a little toll on you," Millsap said. "It may have took a little bit out of me, but I'm back now."
Friday's 14-point, 12-rebound outing was much more Millsap-like than recent games in which he only scored four points (New Orleans) or missed 11 shots (home vs. OKC).
"I feel like I put too much pressure on myself," he said. "And now I feel a lot better about it."
Millsap said what he's doing or not doing has caused his output decline, not necessarily what his defenders have done against him. Either way, Friday was his first double-double in five games.
"I feel like I'm at my best when I'm offensive rebounding the ball, when I'm rebounding period," Millsap said. "Just doing the little things that help me get going ... running the floor, offensive rebounding."
Miles said it's obvious to himself and those watching games that he's not in a smooth groove. It's a bit surprising, too, considering in the last half of January he seemed to have cracked the consistency code that he'd looked for his previous six NBA seasons.
"I wouldn't say I'm unconfident, maybe a little timid with some of the plays I was making," Miles said. "(I'll) try to stay within it until I get a really good flow. I don't want to get out there and try to force things."
Miles came to the practice facility almost two hours early Saturday morning to iron out rough edges. He's only hit 3 of his last 17 shots while averaging four points in the past three games, and he's just 3-for-16 from 3-point range over the past nine games.
"Just keep working, doing all of my extra work and stay mentally prepared to play the game. That's all you can do," he said. "You've got to come in here and attack, like the last game wasn't there."
Added Miles: "I'm trying to get out of the funk, continue to play and play hard."
Miles has been advised in the past — and he repeats this often — that he should attack the basket before firing away from outside. For various reasons — opponents playing zone, defensive breakdowns by the Jazz that eliminate transitions, limited time — he said that's been hard to do lately.
"It's been tough. It's just a tough spot," Miles admitted. "I don't want to come in there gunning trying to fix things. I try to stay within what we do."
Corbin said it's a long season and he'll continue to support Miles and be patient with him, and he hopes teammates do that with others who are struggling.
Even after two zero-point games in the past three contests, the ninth-year small forward said his confidence remains. His health is good, too. Howard said he hasn't had as many scoring opportunities as he's been put into more of a facilitator role recently.
But he doesn't doubt that his aim will return. That would be a bonus, considering he hasn't hit double-figures in scoring in seven games and has shot 8-for-36 in that rough stretch.
"Just keep playing the way I've been playing," he said, "and hopefully the shots will come back around. ... If not, just stay confident."
Howard, whose scoring average has dipped from double figures to 7.6 ppg, said he's fine with how he's being used.
"I was brought in here to be a role player," he said. "Whatever (Corbin) wants me to do, that's what I do."
Corbin: "As long as he continue to work and push himself, he'll be OK."
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