From the sound of things, you'd figure Billy Donovan, Ricky Grace and Eddie Hughes need introductions - to each other. The point guards in the Jazz training camp are doing their best not to notice the others.
Donovan only knows that veteran Rickey Green is missing.Grace says, "I try not to be looking over my shoulder at anybody else."
And as of last summer, Hughes only knew that the Jazz had drafted center Eric Leckner.
But the Jazz are looking for a backup point guard, and Coach Frank Layden wants one of the three to be the answer. "I'm going to give them every opportunity, as an investment in our system," he said Tuesday. "If they can't do it, we've got to look elsewhere." That would mean a search around NBA camps for a two-position guard; these three are strictly point guards, ranging from the 5-foot-10 Donovan to the 6-foot-11/2 Grace.
While each has had his moments in scrimmages, the real tests start Thursday night against Indiana in the Dixie Center. Counting John Stockton, Layden plans to use two point guards in each exhibition game to give everybody a thorough look. "There's no rush," he says.
Billy Donovan - Having hired a conditioning coach during the summer, Donovan is stronger and quicker and has better range this year, making him the best outside shooter of the bunch. And after playing 44 games for New York last season after the Jazz waived him at the end of camp, Donovan also has an experience edge.
"That made me understand what I need to do to be a better player," he said. "The biggest thing that happened to me last year was I had an opportunity to play against Stockton for a month, plus playing with the Knicks."
Donovan played in Washington's summer program but chose the Jazz training camp, knowing there was a vacancy. "They want to bring in a point guard, and that's great," he said.
Ricky Grace - The Jazz's third-round draft choice, Grace played well in the Utah Pro-Am Summer League after Donovan was more impressive in rookie-free agent camp in August. Outside shooting is the question for the left-handed Grace, a 45-percent shooter in two seasons at Oklahoma, but he fits nicely into the Jazz's running game.
"I'm just trying to get the timing down and get the ball in the right places at the right time," he said.
Eddie Hughes - Hughes is technically the incumbent, having finished the '87-88 season with the Jazz as a 12th man after Darrell Griffith was hurt. But Hughes was largely forgotten in Salt Lake City last summer, playing with Chicago in the (6-5 and under) World Basketball League while Donovan and Grace were in town.
This is Hughes' fifth NBA camp and third in a row with the Jazz; he's a perennial late cut. He pretty much gave up on basketball after last October's near miss and became a youth worker in Colorado Springs. When Jazz president-general manager David Checketts tried to reach him last March, Hughes figured he must have owed the Jazz money.
Instead, he was finally being invited to play in the NBA. "It was a good feeling to know I finally got a chance to play," says Hughes, who appeared in 11 regular-season and seven playoff games.
These days, he's back to play his game and try for a job. "That's all you can do," he says. Same for those other guys.
CAMP NOTES: Day 4 offered a break. Following a morning scrimmage, the Jazz took the rest of the day and bused to Mesquite, Nev., for a gambling-optional outing and team dinner . . . Practice sessions have been well-attended, but the Jazz are not an easy sell in St. George. As of Tuesday afternoon, about 1,800 tickets remained for Thursday's game in the 5,000-seat Dixie Center. And that's with no baseball playoff game on television - just imagine if St. George's Bruce Hurst were pitching for Boston in a Game 7 of the American League series, as could have happened.