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Utah Jazz: Jazz's Knight is used to being teased about being a short man in a big-guy game

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 29 2008 12:27 a.m. MDT

Brevin Knight, left, and Kosta Koufos are the two new faces on the Jazz roster. Knight's a veteran and Koufos a rookie. (Keith Johnson, Deseret News) Brevin Knight, left, and Kosta Koufos are the two new faces on the Jazz roster. Knight's a veteran and Koufos a rookie. (Keith Johnson, Deseret News)
Teammates who razz him about needing a step stool to reach the trainer's table to get taped up need to try harder to hit Brevin Knight with a zinger about his height he's never heard.
And, yes, he's heard that one before, but nice try.
Please try to resist calling him a Hobbit hoopster or a pint-sized player, too.
"I get every short joke," Knight said.
Some are even funny.
You'd have to even try harder to say something that would make him — all 5-feet-9 3/4 inches of him — feel inferior for being a vertically challenged athlete in a giant's game, though.
"I'm proud of my height," Knight said. "To say you can play in this league this long at this height I think is a compliment to how hard I worked to get to this point."
And while he's short by NBA standards, Knight definitely is looked up to by guys who tower over him.
Players like 6-foot-3 Deron Williams, who playfully teases his new teammate about being 5-7 with basketball shoes on, talk about the size of Knight's game and not the perceived lack of his size on the court.
Knight's talents are big; his leadership skills even bigger.
The Jazz definitely don't think they ended up on the short end of the deal they made to get Knight from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Jason Hart this summer.
"He's a guy I can learn from. He's been in this league for 12 years now. I think he's going to be good for this team," Williams said. "He can help us on the court, off the court. He's just going to be a great guy to have around."
Williams likes that he golfs, too. (Go ahead, ask how his short game is.)
And, yes, Knight good-naturedly rolled with the short jabs sent his way by his new backcourt buddy. Perhaps Knight, who's never averaged less than 1.25 steals, just remembered laughing all the way to the hoop after picking Williams' pocket a time or two or more in the past.
That, Williams said, happened at least once a game every time they'd play as opponents.
"He knows how to use his hands. He's quick. He's relentless," Williams said. "You think you go by him and you got a layup and then he comes from behind hitting the ball. He's definitely a different look."
Though his height might be a disadvantage in many aspects — especially taking and defending shots — the combination of Knight's quick hands, shifty speed and size give him an advantage in the steals department. He has swiped 1,161 steals in his 11 NBA seasons, including 100 last year in L.A.
"It just allows me to get around the court maybe a little bit easier, sneak between some guys, try to get as many steals as possible," Knight said.

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Jazz coach Jerry Sloan — who says he couldn't care less how tall a player is — sees another big advantage to Knight's smallness. Short guys usually play point guard from the playground on, so the position and accompanying responsibilities of handling and distributing the ball while facing teammates is second nature.
"Most guys that size, they've looked at the floor exactly the same their whole life," said Sloan, who wasn't making a short joke. "They've never played in the post. They've never played on the wings and they've never played off the ball. They've had the ball in their hands all their life. ...
"That's sometimes a tremendous advantage."
Knight agrees.
"That's what I am. I've been it all my life," he said. "I'm one thing. I'm a point guard."
And an accomplished — not to mention well-traveled — one at that. Knight has averaged 7.9 points, 6.6 assists and 1.8 steals with eight different teams since being picked 16th overall out of Stanford by Cleveland in 1998. He had arguably his best seasons with Charlotte between 2004-06, when he had back-to-back years averaging double figures in scoring while finishing in the top three in the NBA in assists.
That's why some would not be surprised if Knight, who played sparingly in the preseason due to a strained-but-now-healing left thumb, surpassed Ronnie Price to become Williams' main backup. Not that he's going to lobby for taking minutes away from the former Utah Valley shooting guard, who's adapting quite well to his new point guard position.
"Whatever way coach goes, it's fine with me. We just want to win," Knight said after playing well in the decisive fourth quarter of Utah's 100-89 preseason-ending win over Portland last Thursday. "Like I told you when I got here, it wasn't going to be a me vs. him. Now with D being down, it's still not a me vs. him. I'm going to root (Price) on; he roots me on. We help each other, and we do whatever it takes for us to win."
Price is just soaking up the experience against two of the league's established point guards.
"I'm just fortunate to have (Knight) as my teammate and continue to learn from him — and Deron as well," he said. "It's been a great experience so far."

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Aside from an occasional joke — especially on team picture day — Knight's height or lack of it doesn't often come up around teammates and coaches.
"We know he can play in the league, so we don't even worry about it," said Jazz assistant Phil Johnson. "I like the way he plays basketball, because he gets the ball to people. He sees people on the floor. He's a point guard."
The fact that Knight has lasted so long — in a league that has only had five players 5-9 and under play more than eight seasons, according to a Sporting News report — is proof that you can be diminutive and dominating at the same time.
"He's a very tough kid," Johnson added. "He's playing in a league where (height) is an advantage, but he's obviously overcome that and has played very well."
Sloan said the soon-to-be 33-year-old's story reminds him of another player he's much more familiar with: John Stockton, who got all he could and more out of his 6-foot frame.
"He was able to take advantage of it. I think that's what Brevin's been able to do in his career," Sloan said. "In basketball, it doesn't make any difference if you're 7 feet or 5 feet, as long as you can do the things that are out there for you to do (and) if you can run a team."
It helps to be able to take a joke, too.
Especially the stale ones that are perhaps, well, short on humor.
"I just smile at it. It's funny to me, to see if they come up with something new," Knight said.
And have his new teammates delivered any fresh punchlines?
"Nah," he said. "Nothing new yet."
And to set the record straight: No, the step stool is not necessary.


E-mail: jody@desnews.com

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