So maybe this was the Marriott Center and Jazz-Lakers was just an exhibition game, but point guard Jim Les' tryout was hardly ordinary. Signed to a make-good contract two days before, here he was, taking over for foul-troubled John Stockton to face Laker rookie David Rivers with 5:38 left in Thursday night's game and the Jazz leading by four points.
"There was a lot of pressure on him," said Coach Frank Layden.Only winning or losing a job.
When Les came out three minutes later, the Jazz still had a four-point lead. He'd assisted Karl Malone for a jumper and thrown a pass behind Mark Eaton but did nothing too damaging. For the game, he played 14 minutes with two points, four assists - teammates' missed layups cost him a couple more - one steal and one turnover.
"I thought he handled himself well," said Layden.
Les has made several other preseason appearances with Philadelphia and Milwaukee in three training camps; based on his play against the Lakers, he has a chance to stick. "I was just happy to get in the game and try to maintain some sort of control while John was out," he said. "The coaches have made it very easy . . . helping me adjust to the system and the way they want things run. The running style is what I like to do."
Les should know where he stands with the Jazz by Tuesday afternoon, when the final 12-man roster is due - the team could wait until the official Thursday deadline and pay partial salaries to the players waived. With 14 players, plus the injured Bobby Hansen, the Jazz appear to have no room for rookie guard Marty Simmons and, at the moment, Billy Donovan.
"I'm just trying to get better and compete with these guys," said Simmons, who played three uneventful minutes. "I know I got a pretty good lesson tonight."
Said Donovan, who did not play, "I did everything I possibly could this summer to make myself a better player, and I can definitely live with myself. I'm going to continue to play hard until something happens."
Scott Roth probably kept his job during Hansen's absence, at least with a solid game at Golden State Tuesday, although he's played only 52 preseason minutes. "I can't do any more than I've been doing," he said. "I can walk away knowing Idid my best."