At the end of another Jazz rookie-free agent camp at Westminster College, we find that the point-guard derby is down to four players, the Jazz really did receive something for Kelly Tripucka and Eric Leckner is not going to overwhelm anybody just yet.
More news after Saturday.Of the 16 campers, 11 were asked to stay for the Utah Pro-Am Summer League this week. Sunday's uninvited - Frank Layden never likes to say "cut" at these moments - included point guards Bo Dukes of the CBA, Todd Holloway of Texas A & M and Aldwin Ware of Florida A & M; off guard Randal Smith of Southwestern Louisiana and forward Andrew Kennedy of Virginia. Of the five, Kennedy is the only mild surprise, considering he was Philadelphia's second-round draft choice last year and almost made the Sixers.
Who's left? Other than veterans Bart Kofoed, Scott Roth and Mike Brown, the most meaningful four are the point guards, hoping to replace the returning Eddie Hughes and/or the departed Rickey Green as John Stockton's backup. Rookies Jeff Moe of Iowa, Ricky Grace of Oklahoma and Kevin Nixon of Utah State will join former Knick/Jazz training camper Billy Donovan for at least another week.
"All the point guards played very well," said Scott Layden, the Jazz's director of player personnel.
Brown was also impressive, outplaying Leckner in scrimmages. Brown showed he has intentions of playing immediately behind Mark Eaton after being unprotected by Chicago in the expansion draft and ending up with the Jazz after Charlotte claimed him and traded him for Tripucka the same day.
"He should be impressive; you're talking about a guy who's been around three years," said Layden.
Leckner, meanwhile, has been around only about a week, which explains why he struggled at times during the camp and had assistant coach Jerry Sloan in his back pocket most of the weekend. "Some days good, some days bad," said the first-round draft choice, evaluating himself. "My conditioning isn't where I want it."
The coaching staff tried to accelerate that process by having Leckner play every minute of every scrimmage, and he held up fairly well. But while he shows good hands, good feet and a nice shooting touch, Leckner clearly has a way to go before he advances beyond backup-center status.
Then again, so did people like Danny Schayes and Kevin Duckworth in their early pro days - not to mention the fact that the last Jazz first-rounder to attend rookie camp, a kid from Louisiana named Karl Malone, played so uninspiringly that he caused Frank Layden to say to himself, "Now I know why I got him 13th."
The Jazz already knew why they got Leckner 17th, because he was unimpressive in the U.S. Olympic trials. "I don't think we're disappointed," said Scott Layden. "We understand who he is and that it's going to take time. Thank God he's here. If Eric has a bad day now, you're not that concerned - if he'd showed up in October, he'd be a year and a half or two years behind."
Leckner will have almost almost two months' experience in the Jazz system by veterans' camp, and he likes the progress he's making. "I learned the offense and the scheme of things and what they want," he noted. "I felt pretty good about it . . . I hope I do better in the (Pro-Am) league."
The Pro-Am opens Tuesday night at East High and continues with round-robin play among the four teams Wednesday and Thursday with the third-place and championship games Saturday night. The opening-night card sends the Jazz entrant against the Salt Lake Community College team (Schubach's-Seiko) at 6:30 p.m. and the former local collegians (Associated Business Products) against various NBA players (Coor's) at 8:30.