Bobby Hansen is home, so the Jazz are in Chicago without their closest thing to Jerry Sloan. Hansen's absence means Darrell Griffith and the rest of the Jazz's Big 5 will be playing Sloan-style minutes as the Jazz try to fight their way through a tough January.
In his prime with the Bulls, Sloan averaged a high of 39 minutes a game (1970-71) and was in the high 30s almost every season. He's aware of the risks of wearing out his regulars, but he also knows they thrive on big minutes, just like he did."Those guys dictate a lot of your time," said Sloan, who brings his team back to Chicago Stadium to face the Bulls tonight. "You have to keep them on the floor. They get into a comfort zone, and you try not to take that away."
Malone is averaging more than 40 minutes a game, second in the NBA to Michael Jordan. But his minutes - like those of John Stockton (38), Mark Eaton (36) and Thurl Bailey (34) - are only a little higher than last year.
Griffith (36) is way ahead of that pace, but he welcomes that after having to share his time for the last two seasons - and his knee, which had to be drained frequently last year and finally sidelined him in March, is no problem.
"It's been remarkable," said trainer Don Sparks. "His knee has held up far better than we anticipated. I'd say he's done a great job himself on his maintenance program."
Griffith is resuming a full-time role again, with Hansen sidelined for several weeks and Bart Kofoed gone.
As for the others, Stockton says, "As far as the normal wear and tear, I'd say no problem."
What's more, playing big minutes shows Stockton's and Bailey's value to the team, during these days of contract talks.
During the last two-thirds of the season, Sloan wants to develop rookies Jim Les and Eric Leckner, while finding out how the often-injured (this season, anyway) Mike Brown can contribute. Right away, he also has to evaluate Jim Farmer, the second-year guard who is working on a 10-day contract.
He's more concerned about trying to improve the Jazz's 4-11 road record - and that means more big minutes for the Big 5 - plus Marc Iavaroni.