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Utah Jazz: Paul Millsap gets attention with trip to the 'Jungle'

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 7 2010 11:58 p.m. MST

Paul Millsap (August Miller, Deseret News) Paul Millsap (August Miller, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Winning doesn't just lead to players earning honors and awards, as Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is fond of pointing out.

Success also results in people wanting to talk to the people responsible for the wins.

That was the case Tuesday, when Paul Millsap was a guest on the nationally syndicated "Jim Rome Show."

During a six-minute segment on the popular radio program, Utah's starting power forward and Rome talked about a variety of Jazz-related topics — from replacing Carlos Boozer, to getting the green light in Sloan's system, having a stronger-minded team, to being snubbed on the All-Star ballot.

"Nice player," Rome told his so-called 'Jungle Clones' of Millsap, who is averaging 17.9 points and 8.4 rebounds. "You can't tell me that guy is not on the All-Star ballot. That's a joke, flat-out wrong."

Regarding that well-documented slight, Millsap told Rome he thought, "Here we go again. People looking down, looking down, don't think a guy like my stature can be an All-Star. And every night I try to step out there and prove them otherwise."

Millsap remarked that the 16-6 Jazz's comeback success — including rallying to win eight games after trailing by double digits — starts inside the more-experienced Jazz players' heads.

"The team is mentally tougher," Millsap said. "Deron has grown a lot, myself, the guys who have been in this system have grown. And then you add a guy like Raja Bell, Al Jefferson, to the mix and you've just got a veteran team of guys who want to win, want to compete. The mentality has changed a lot."

Even Millsap's mentality and approach is different now that the starting job is his, not Boozer's.

"A lot of it has changed — the way I go about practice, the way I go about pregame, all of that has changed," Millsap said. "You've got to be more focused, especially starting and playing more minutes. You know the ball's going to be in your hand a lot so you've just got to be prepared for it.

"I know I'm going to get the time now, so it's time to just put in the work."

Millsap also told Rome that his 46-point game against Miami, which visits Utah tonight, was a "live in the moment" situation.

"I had the opportunity to shoot the shot and I went for it," said Millsap, who famously hit three 3-pointers and an OT-forcing buzzer-beating shot in the final 28.7 seconds last month in the Jazz's 116-114 overtime win in Miami. "Everything slows down and you feel like the rim is as wide as all outside."

Millsap said that Sloan gives him freedom and has confidence in his improved shot.

"Especially," Millsap added, "as long as you play defense."

INJURY UPDATE: Kyrylo Fesenko again sported a protective boot on his sprained left ankle Tuesday after rolling it while attempting to block a shot in the fourth quarter Monday. The injury kept Fes from practicing, and he's listed as doubtful for tonight.

"It hurts," Fesenko said of his swollen ankle.

As the team gathered for its morning workout, the 7-foot-1 center headed to the stationary bike and said, "I'm going to do a little cardio right now to stay in shape."

ON HIS OWN: Twenty-year-old rookie Gordon Hayward is no longer living under adult supervision — other than his own, that is. The Jazz rookie's dad lived in Utah with the NBA newbie since training camp, but the elder Hayward returned to Indiana with their family last week.

"I'm, like, officially on my own. It's exciting," Hayward said. "It's a little sad, but I'm ready to leave the nest."

Pizza and ramen noodles, anyone?

Contributing: Tim Buckley

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

twitter: DJJazzyJody

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