The Jazz's Point-Guard Derby ended suddenly Friday morning. The winner: Billy Donovan.
Besides waiving off-guards Jeff Moe and Ron Rowan, the Jazz cut two point guards - veteran Eddie Hughes and third-round draft choice Ricky Grace. That leaves Donovan alone as John Stockton's backup - for now, anyway."There are still five exhibition games left, and I'm not looking upon this as me making the team now," Donovan said before Friday night's game with Philadelphia. "I'm taking it like I'm still fighting for a job. I definitely feel a lot better, but there are still a lot of possibilities left."
That's true, especially when Jazz president-general manager David Checketts says the team is looking at outside help for the point-guard position. Donovan, meanwhile, will have a chance to play big minutes as the preseason continues tonight against Golden State in Ogden.
The moves leave the Jazz with 14 players, two above the regular-season limit. Besides Donovan vs. the unknown point guard, the only remaining roster battles are Scott Roth vs. Marc Iavaroni at small forward and free agent Marty Simmons vs. Bart Kofoed at off guard. Kofoed will also spend time at the point.
The least surprising player cut Friday was Rowan, a late addition to camp when the Jazz worried about the health of Darrell Griffith and Kofoed. The 6-foot-3 Moe was a second-round draft choice; the Jazz decided to keep him at off guard, trying him at the point only in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's loss to the Lakers.
"I thought they gave me a fair shot, but they already had three (off) guards with guaranteed contracts," said Moe.
Grace took the news the hardest, figuring he'd outplayed Donovan in 12 minutes against Washington Monday, with two points and two assists. "I thought I did well in that quarter - I ran the team well and we were up by more when I went out," he said. "I guess they expected something different."
Grace figures he was unfairly judged by a brief assignment against the Lakers, but Coach Frank Layden says he was judging by the summer program and fall practices, not just games. "Donovan had the edge after the summer," he said. "Donovan gets the nod based on experience, really."
Hughes, 28, was out of basketball last winter but finally broke into the NBA in March when Griffith was injured. He will likely retire - again. "I'm not going to play unless somebody calls me," he said.
Simmons is the surprise of the preseason, having gone undrafted in June after his senior season at Evansville. "There's no doubt I'm happy," he said, "but Coach Layden told us he wouldn't bring us back (after the summer) if we didn't have a legitimate shot."
Simmons would have to outplay Kofoed to make the team, while Roth must hope to knock out Iavaroni or Kofoed to win a job as a swingman.