Quantcast

Utah Jazz staying cool about playing Heat

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 10:56 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — They put their shorts on one leg at a time, just like you do. They pull their sleeveless shirt on overhead, just like you would — if, that is, you went to work in a sleeveless shirt. They tie their sneakers just like you, too, sending the rabbit around the tree.

That is what the Jazz essentially will keep reminding themselves of tonight in Miami, where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh arguably must be treated like mere mortals if Utah is to have any hope of hanging with the new-look Heat.

Such were the sentiments prior to practice Monday, when coach Jerry Sloan's club prepared to embark on a four-games-in-five-nights Eastern Conference road swing that also includes stops Wednesday night at Orlando, Friday night at Atlanta and Saturday night at Charlotte.

"They've lost games," power forward Paul Millsap said of a made-with-money Heat team off to a 5-2 start that includes defeats at Boston in its season-opener and at New Orleans last Friday. "They're human beings, just like we are."

"They've got some players on that team," added point guard Deron Williams, who compares Miami to the 2008 Boston Celtics' club that won its NBA title only after adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a roster already featuring Paul Pierce. "But they still are another team in this league — and anybody can be beat on any night."

That mindset established, it's hard to ignore how James turned the NBA upside down after agreeing this past offseason to leave Cleveland and join former Toronto Raptors' star Bosh and longtime Heat mainstay Wade in South Beach.

"It's just crazy," swingman C.J. Miles said, "how they were able to get it together."

Risky, too.

Creating enough team payroll cap space for two-time league MVP James and five-time All-Star Bosh meant stripping the roster to bare bones and trusting that 2009 league scoring-leader Wade would remain in Miami, James would opt against staying in Cleveland and Bosh would complete the triumvirate.

Had Wade left and James not come, it would have been a cold day in Florida for the Heat.

"The one thing I would say is they took a major risk in Miami," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said. "He (Heat president Pat Riley) did what he thought was best for the franchise, and it came out great."

How good it is for the NBA has been the subject of great debate since James' July decision.

"I wouldn't be able to speak to that for a year or two," the Jazz GM said. "See how it comes out."

On Monday, though, none of the Jazz brass seemed to have any problem with what unfolded.

"I thought all along he (James) had a right to go anywhere he wanted to," O'Connor said.

"We're all selfish, I guess," head coach Jerry Sloan added. "We would take a couple of them ourselves."

All of which leaves Sloan's team trying to treat tonight's game like any other.

"That's what you've got to do, is just go play basketball," he said. "You're gonna have to compete like the devil to beat them."

"We've just got to go in there and play, and not get caught up in trying to get too hyped up for it," added Miles, who suggested it's critical that no one with the Jazz attempt to make any sort of personal statements. "We've just got to go in there and play as a team, and that's how we win the game."

For some, there are no real worries about being overcome by so much starpower — even with the trio having scored a combined 73 points in Saturday's 101-89 win over New Jersey.

Williams — an All-Star himself who's averaging 20.2 points and 9.0 assists in six games so far this season — said the Jazz must "just know they're another team."

"I don't think our team, as a whole," Millsap added, "will get caught up in stuff like that."

Yet, Miles feels it is critical that the Jazz not succumb to the temptation of thinking they can stifle all three.

"Those guys, they're very talented guys. You're not gonna shut them down," he said. "But you can find ways to try to contain them, and just find ways to keep three people from going for 30, 40, 50."

NOTES: Williams practiced at only half-speed Monday morning due to a sore lower back and bruised right hip. But Williams is expected to play tonight, a team spokesman said Monday. The All-Star point logged a career-high 54 minutes in Utah's double-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. He scored a season-high 30 points against the Clippers, including the game-winning layup. ... Injured center Mehmet Okur isn't traveling, staying behind instead to continue rehabbing his surgically repaired Achilles tendon. The Jazz still have no timetable whatsoever as to when Okur might return, O'Connor said Monday. ... All other Jazz players — including Miles and Millsap, who recently were dealing with sprained ankles, and rookie forward Jeremy Evans, who recently had a sprained wrist — are healthy and should be good to go tonight.

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company