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Utah Jazz: Starter unknown, but Lucas, Tinsley both ready to contribute

Published: Friday, July 31 2015 8:01 a.m. MDT

Coach Tyrone Corbin, right, speaks during a press conference at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, related to the Utah Jazz signing forward/center Derrick Favors to a multi-year contract extension. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Coach Tyrone Corbin, right, speaks during a press conference at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, related to the Utah Jazz signing forward/center Derrick Favors to a multi-year contract extension. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Mo Williams is gone, Earl Watson is gone, Trey Burke is injured, John Lucas III is new, Jamaal Tinsley is back, while Alec Burks is available.

So who is going to be the point guard for the Utah Jazz when they open their season at EnergySolutions Arena Wednesday night against Oklahoma City?

Coach Tyrone Corbin didn’t know for sure Tuesday morning before practice, but said he would decide before the end of the day and everyone will know by opening tipoff.

It’s going to be either Lucas, who has stepped into the starting role during preseason after likely starter Burke broke his finger, or Tinsley, a backup and sometimes-starter for the Jazz the past two years, who barely rejoined the team a couple of days ago.

“With Trey being out, Jamaal and Lucas are the two guys who are natural point guards who can play,’’ said Corbin. “Alec has done it for a short amount of time in the past.’’

Utah Jazz point guard Alec Burks (10) drives to the basket in the second half of a game at the EnergySolutions Arena on Wednesday, October 16, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah Jazz point guard Alec Burks (10) drives to the basket in the second half of a game at the EnergySolutions Arena on Wednesday, October 16, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

The advantage with Tinsley is that he’s been there, done that, having started 33 games for the Jazz the past two years and 399 games in a 10-year NBA career. He also knows the Jazz system, having played for Corbin the past two years.

On the other hand, Lucas has just two starts in his five seasons in the NBA, both in 2011-12 when he was with the Chicago Bulls. However, Lucas has the advantage of playing with the Jazz over the past month and a different looking lineup than the one Tinsley played with the past two years.

Corbin was impressed but not surprised that Tinsley kept in great shape since last season and indicated he wouldn’t hesitate to play him this week.

“He’s always been a guy that kept himself in good shape,’’ he said. “The last couple of years when we’ve had him here, he’s always worked hard and been ready. As far as substantial minutes, we’ll see. Once he gets his legs back under him for a couple of days, we expect him to be ready to go.’’

Utah's Jamaal Tinsley brings the ball up court with Wolves' Andrei Kirilenko trailing behind as they Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in EnergySolutions arena. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Utah's Jamaal Tinsley brings the ball up court with Wolves' Andrei Kirilenko trailing behind as they Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves play Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 in EnergySolutions arena. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Corbin has also been happy with Lucas, who was thrust into the starting role when Burke got hurt earlier this month. Lucas said he’s fine with whatever role he’s asked to fill.

“It’s no difference with me, I just go out and play the game of basketball,’’ Lucas said. “If I start, it’s great, if I don’t start, it’s great too. I’m going to go out there and play like I have all preseason and getting everybody involved and knocking down the open shots and running the team.’’

Even though he’s four years younger, Lucas says he knows Tinsley from playing against him a bit in the NBA and looks up to him as a fellow former Big 12 player.

“I’ve played against him — he’s a Big 12 alum too from Iowa State,’’ Lucas said. “I watched him when I was coming into school at Baylor and a lot when I was at Oklahoma State. Coach (Eddie) Sutton said because of my size and the way I played we’re kind of similar.’’

As similar as they are, Lucas said he has the edge on Tinsley in one area.

“I got a little bit better shot, I think,’’ said with a laugh, before adding, “Don’t tell JT that.’’

As for Tinsley, he recognizes the team is different with all the young players, who he believes “the sky’s the limit for them’’ and says he won’t do anything different this year.

Tinsley said his role is "Just helping these guys get better, and just being the same guy I’ve been the last two years here."

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