A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it. - George Moore.
With the exception of love, probably no subject has inspired more prose than home. It's where you get comfortable. It's where all your good vibes are. It's where you live and breathe and get a chance to be yourself.Home for a basketball team is its castle, and nobody worth their nickname is going to let someone come and set up shop. The Boston Celtics, who beat everybody, everywhere, during their salad days, were even better at home. They went 40-1 in 1985-86 at Boston Garden. "They should have," says Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan. "Look who they had playing for them."
For the Utah Jazz, their home season begins Thursday at 7:30 in the Salt Palace against San Antonio. Certainly, home has been good to the Jazz. After spending four days in Japan to play the Phoenix Suns, they are back for their final season in the Salt Palace. There, the Jazz went 36-5 last year, compiling the second-best home record in the league. Only the Lakers at 37-4
did better at home. Chicago and Utah tied for second.
"That was last year," says Sloan. "Nobody cares what you did last year or last week. We happen to be at home, but I can't worry about where the games are played."
Sloan has never been a big believer in home/road factors. Before going to Japan to play Phoenix last week he said, "This is a very good job and they get paid very well. They should be ready to play anywhere."
There the Jazz split two games with the Suns to open the season.
The Jazz have rigorous November schedule that includes six more road games, including a six-day, four-game swing in mid-month. But for the Jazz, it is probably a good thing they are meeting the Spurs at home, first. San Antonio was picked to finish first in the Midwest Division by most publications. And that was before their recent acquisition of Sidney Green from Orlando, in exchange for journeyman center Mark McNamara and the Spurs' 1991 first-round draft choice. Green led the Magic in rebounding last season, averaging 8.1 rebounds and 10.4 points a game.
Other key off-season acquisitions included veteran David Greenwood from Detroit and Paul Pressey from Milwaukee.
"San Antonio's better, no question about it," says Sloan. "They're a young, excited basketball team. And they've added experience."
Of course, Green may be the least of Utah's problems. San Antonio, 1-0, plays Denver Wednesday night. The Spurs are back with David Robinson, maybe the most promising young player in the NBA. Robinson finished last season as the runaway Rookie of the Year, averaging 24 points, 12 rebounds and nearly four blocks a game."He thrilled us last year," says Spurs Coach Larry Brown. "I don't think anyone anticipated he'd come in and score 25 a game and be the second-leading rebounder in the league."
"And," continues Brown, "he's gotten better."
That isn't good news to the Jazz, who saw Robinson average 26 points and 12 rebounds in the five games they played last season. The Spurs beat Utah three of five times, including a 102-93 win on April 18 that basically clinched the Midwest title.
The Spurs, who beat the Lakers 110-99 in their season opener, got 25 points, seven rebounds and six blocks from Robinson. Guards Rod Strickland and Willie Anderson were both out with stress fractures. Anderson is expected to be out three weeks; Strickland for about 10 days.
Not to worry. Pressey and Sean Elliott stepped in to combine for 32 points against the Lakers.
Meanwhile, the Jazz will work on overcoming the effects of flying about 18,000 miles in the past two weeks. Sloan's solution is to ignore where you've been and concentrate on playing well.
But nobody is going to complain about being back in the place the Jazz have become a monster.
"It's good to be back," says backup guard Delaney Rudd. "Not just here playing at home; it's good just to be playing in the States."