C.J. Miles didn't expect to get any sleep Wednesday night.
He was lit up like he always is after playing well, but this? This was all his dreams rolled into one night. One very good night for a 19-year-old who is so very much better than he was as an 18-year-old.
He has learned so much in the last season with the Utah Jazz, and after a stint in the NBA Development League in 2005-06, that coach Jerry Sloan suddenly sprang Halloween, Christmas, New Year's and his birthday on him all at once on Wednesday morning, announcing that Miles would start at shooting guard on opening night of the 2006-07 season.
"It took my mind to a different focus," Miles said about Sloan's surprise that caught him off-guard as much as it did most other Jazz watchers.
"It was a big thing for me. Working hard from training camp until now and him noticing that and I've got Coach's trust a little bit, so I wasn't going to let him down," said a wide-eyed Miles, who cited that short time in the D-League last year for helping him be the player he is now, though he was disappointed at being sent down last season.
He opened the game Wednesday in the Delta Center by tipping the opening tip to teammate Deron Williams and making his first four shots as well as two free throws.
Utah went on to beat the Houston Rockets 107-97 with Miles contributing 12 points all in the first quarter as Utah ran to a 35-26 lead it never surrendered on 4-for-5 shooting. He added three rebounds and a blocked shot in 22 minutes of play.
"I was in a zone. I was in a focus. My mind was set that I was going to play hard and play well. Now I've just got to keep it up," Miles said.
He knew he fell off quite a bit the rest of the game, committing the sin of being young again. "I kinda relaxed a little bit in the second half. That's the first thing Coach told me I've got to learn not to do. Stay the same intensity the whole game."
"He's come a long way since he came here," said Sloan, adding, "When he came out in the second half, he didn't have any energy. You can say, 'Well, he's young.' But if he's going to be a man, he's got to step up again tomorrow and get after it and get in better shape so that he can finish it up."
But Sloan hoped that this start, and the way Miles ran with it to begin with, will help his confidence, something that flags when he has a mishap or two.
"I get a habit of getting down on myself when things go wrong, and coach is trying to break it," Miles said, noting that if he puts his head down after a mistake, Sloan will take him out. "He'll tell me, 'Stay focused , and don't let it bother you because you usually make the second mistake worrying about the first mistake.'"
Miles said that after the morning shootaround, he knew he had to take a rare nap "because I was so wired up I had to sit down and relax myself. I eventually got like an hour in," and that meant, he said, there was no way he could sleep after the game.
"I didn't think at 19 I would be starting, coming out of high school, and now it's like a dream come true. I just knew if I keep working, I'd get a chance, and Coach gave me a chance."