In describing the Jazz's opening-night challenge, Ronnie Price used an adjective as many times as some people do when talking about their pioneer ancestors.
Traveling to Denver to face the defending Northwest Division champions, the Jazz combo guard claimed, is a "great, great, great test."
The game against the Nuggets will be televised Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN, the network that happens to employ the great-great-great grandson of Brigham Young.
Minus a few greats, Deron Williams agreed this will give Utah a chance to take its preseason talk on a walk.
"It's going to be a good match-up, a good test to see if we can come out and execute like we want to on defense," Williams said. "See if we can show that toughness on the road."
And do all of that against a rival that returns the key players from its trip to the Western Conference Finals.
"They've still got a good team," said Williams, specifically mentioning standouts Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene and the suspended-for-seven-games J.R. Smith.
"It's a good way to start," he added.
Utah (48-34) finished six games behind 54-28 Denver, which improved after an early trade in which Billups was swapped for Allen Iverson.
Coach Jerry Sloan said the game would be a challenge anywhere.
"Anybody would be a good opening-night test," he said. "Anytime you play a team in their building on the road, it's always difficult. The fans are excited, everybody's excited — they haven't lost a game. It's tough to go in any building and win on the road to start off."
Playing in Denver does, he admitted, increase the degree of difficulty.
"They've got some toughness about them," Sloan said. "They can defend and they've got guys that can score and make big shots."
SIGNING SESSION: Rookie Eric Maynor had an eye-opening experience when he entered the practice facility Monday. A full court was loaded with hundreds of basketballs, boxes of shirts, Christmas ornaments, decorative pumpkins, books and Jazz paraphernalia to be signed by players and coaches for charitable giveaways.
"When you first come in here," he said, "you look at the room and you're like, 'Wow! And I'm supposed to get started right now?'"
The new guy learned quickly. His autograph is short and sweet — in his words "a big E, some scribble-scrabble, a big M, and then a No. 3." If it's too long, he added, your hand will really be hating it. Asked if he considered switching to his well-rested right hand, the southpaw laughed. "That'd be terrible. Left hand's already looking terrible."
FRIENDLY ADVICE:Paul Millsap feels for Ronnie Brewer, who will become a restricted free agent if he can't work out a contract extension with Utah by Saturday's deadline. The Jazz power forward played last year knowing his future was on the line.
"It kind of weighed on me last year. It was a stressful situation, because you're a little scared not knowing what's going to happen," said Millsap, who ended up with four extra seasons and $32 million. "The only thing he can do is get out there and play basketball and (increase) his stock. And I wish the best for him."
MEDICAL MATTERS: While backup shooting guard Kyle Korver was preparing to undergo surgery today in New York, both Brewer and Price managed to make it through all of Monday's Jazz practice — including a scrimmage — in Utah.
Still, Price is being called a "gametime decision" by the club for Wednesday. The Utah Valley product missed the final four preseason games due to a hamstring strain.
Brewer, the Jazz's starting guard, missed Friday night's preseason-ending win at Sacramento due to back spasms. He practiced both Sunday and Monday, though.
"(Sunday) I felt pretty good trying to get my legs back under me and work(ing) through the pain," Brewer said. "But right now I've got so much heat and stuff on it that it feels pretty loose."
If Price can play Wednesday, the Jazz should have 11 healthy players available.
Missing will be Korver, who is having arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his left knee; last season's starting small forward, C.J. Miles, who is recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured ligament in his left thumb; and veteran forward Matt Harpring, who missed training camp and the preseason and is unlikely to play this season because of chronic ankle and knee injuries.
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributing: Tim Buckley
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