TAYLORSVILLE With Derek Fisher gone to Los Angeles and Morris Peterson agreeing to terms with the New Orleans Hornets, the opening game of the Rocky Mountain Revue for a couple of young Utah Jazz two-guards presented an opportunity for them to dream about getting regular-season minutes.
"You read the papers, and you read to see who might join the team, especially after the loss of Derek Fisher," admitted Utah's top 2007 draft choice, Morris Almond, the shooting guard from Rice University who exhibited a nice shot, if not a winning shot, on Friday night.
Utah did win its Revue opener, 64-63, over the Atlanta Hawks when Almond missed from 15 feet but second-year man Paul Millsap rebounded and scored but missed a free throw. Atlanta's Sheldon Williams rebounded Millsap's miss and hit the rim and backboard with a shot from the backcourt as time ran out.
"I just want to improve every day," said Almond, the No. 25 pick in the June 28 draft.
Thinking about regular-season time is a long time off. "That's probably on the back burner right now. I'm trying to learn the sets and deal with what's in front of me right now. All that stuff will come in due time," he said. "I'm taking baby steps."
Almond tied Atlanta's Williams for most shots in the game with 14, making six of them and scoring a dozen points, 0-for-1 on 3-pointers.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said there were only one or two Almond shots he disagreed with and added he liked Almond's poise. "It's early, but he has a major NBA skill he can shoot the ball," Corbin said. "That may get him on the floor a little sooner than later."
Last year's first-rounder, Ronnie Brewer, selected 14th overall, said he has his own internal motivation and isn't thinking about what might be.
"It's motivation for you, but you should already have motivation in your heart to strive to get better," he said. "I have self-motivation. I don't need anybody to dangle anything in front of me to make me play hard or work to get better."
Brewer, who actually played small forward Friday because Almond started at the two, missed the first couple days of Revue training camp with a hamstring pull and turned an ankle partway through Friday's game trying to stop a fast break. Someone stepped on his foot. He returned to the game but said he wouldn't know until today how much of a problem his right ankle will be because it was so heavily taped when he was playing.
Also putting in his two cents, and 12 points, was shooting guard Matt Lojeski of Hawaii, making 5-for-8 for a dozen points, 2-for-2 on threes, and showing a lot of scrappiness.
When the Jazz announced after the game that they have come to terms with 6-3 free agent guard Jason Hart, a veteran of 240 NBA games with five teams in six seasons, it may have cut into the minutes Brewer and Almond are chasing because Hart can play both guard positions. But Brewer doesn't worry. He noted that when the Jazz drafted him in the lottery last year, they already had Gordan Giricek and C.J. Miles and were about to trade for Fisher, and they still picked him, he said.
Utah's other 2007 draft find, 20-year-old, 7-foot-1 Ukrainian center Kyrlyo Fesenko, didn't have big stats, other than three blocked shots, but he showed almost fanatic desire to get to the ball on rebounds and to halt opponents' shots.
"Yeah, because that's my job. I receive money for this," he said.
"This is my game: blocked shot, defense, rebounds. But I cannot realize rebounds today. This makes me a little bit upset," Fesenko said. "Two defensive rebounds in 12 minutes (12:56), that's not good for me."
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