Jazz notebook: Jazz awake early despite travel day

Published: Monday, Feb. 20 2012 11:16 p.m. MST

San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) attempts a shot while defended by Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson, left, forwards Paul Millsap, second from right and C.J. Miles (34) during the first half on a NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 20, 2012, in Salt Lake City.

Jim Urquhart, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — After getting back home around midnight following Sunday night's game at Houston, the conventional wisdom might've been to have given the Utah Jazz players Monday morning off.

But head coach Tyrone Corbin thought better of it, feeling like it was important to go ahead and have his guys go through their typical game-day shootaround leading up to Monday night's game against San Antonio.

"I think we're better if we just get out of bed a little bit, come in and we get a chance to watch some film, get the guys moving around a little bit," he said. "The main thing is we stretch and make sure we focus on what we've got to do to try and get a win against a tough team.

"I think we're better when we get out of bed and come in and spend some time together before (the game) and get the guys moving around. It also gives us a chance to get the guys stretched out and, if we need to address some treatment issues, we can get an extra session in this morning."

Corbin laughed out loud when asked how happy his players were about coming in for shootaround on Monday morning.

"Yeah, they love it, they love getting up," he said. "They were all smiles when they came in and looked at the paper this morning before our morning meeting. It was 'Hey, good to see ya' and 'Yeah, glad to be here.' "We got home around midnight, a little after midnight. It wasn't too bad, not bad at all. We're used to worse."

Second-year Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward just shrugged when asked if he was surprised they scheduled a shootaround the morning after a road trip, especially with an always-tough and rested Spurs team already in town waiting to face them.

"Coach calls practice and we're ready to go," he said. "That's just our job. People were a little tired, but at the same time, we realize these games are important, so we have to do whatever we can to try and get a win.

"Each game is very important. This game (against the Spurs) is important just because we want to go into Minnesota and go into this All-Star break with some momentum. So every night is a very important game."

Well, they'll have to hope they gain some "mo" in Minneapolis on Wednesday night after dropping a tough 106-102 decision to the Spurs on Monday night.

OLDER BUT WISER: San Antonio power forward/center Tim Duncan is in his 15th NBA season, and that's a lot of mileage on the old wheels.

A two-time league MVP, the 35-year-old Duncan has led the Spurs to three NBA championships during his stellar career, earning Finals MVP honors all three times. With career averages of over 20 points and 11 rebounds per game, he was averaging just 13.7 points and a career-low 8.6 rebounds per game this season entering Monday night's game against Utah.

With his scoring average dropping to the second-lowest of his career — he averaged 13.4 ppg last season — and marking only the second time in his career that Duncan has averaged less than 17.9 ppg in a season, he might not be quite the force he's always been.

But the old pro had 20 points and seven rebounds in the Spurs 106-102 win, and the big fella still commands plenty of respect from the Jazz.

"The only thing I see in Tim Duncan is he just can't get off the floor like he used to," said Jazz center Al Jefferson, who's nearly nine years younger than the Spurs' big man. "But when you're 7-foot, you really don't have to jump that high. That's the only thing I see.

"Other than that, everything else is pretty much the same. He's a great player; the older he gets, the wiser he gets. He used to go for my ball-fakes, and now he don't. He's just a smart player, man."

Jazz point guard Devin Harris also commended Duncan for his intelligence and court sense.

"He's probably one of the smartest players to play the game," Harris said.

"He understands when to shoot, when to pass, how to get guys open, he sets great screens, he just reads defenses a lot better.

"He's just tremendous. Even though he's getting up there in age, he's still a very capable player."

And Utah's second-year swingman Gordon Hayward, who grew up admiring Duncan's San Antonio teammate Manu Ginobili so much that he chose the Argentian's No. 20 to wear as his own jersey number, is also an admirer of Duncan and the Spurs' championship legacy.

"Mr. Fundamental and always gets the job done," Hayward said of Duncan.

"He's isn't that flashy but he always seems to do whatever it takes to get the job done. That goes for Manu and (point guard) Tony Parker as well.

Manu's probably one of the reasons I picked No. 20 growing up. Their team is just winners.

"(Duncan) doesn't get off the ground as much, but he still passes, still knows how to get to the free-throw line, get offensive rebounds and do different things to help his team. He might not be as explosive or dynamic as he once was, but he's still very, very talented and a good player."

And, sure enough, he showed it again Monday night.

email: rhollis@desnews.com

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