With Jason Hart in Los Angeles for his grandmother's funeral, Ronnie Price knew he was going to get Hart's minutes and a few more Monday night when the Utah Jazz played the New Jersey Nets at EnergySolutions Arena.
"I had a little jitters because I haven't been on the court like that in those situations, but after stepping on the court, it all went away," said the Jazz's third-string point guard, who averages less than four minutes a game. He signed with Utah last summer as a free agent after Sacramento let him go.
"The situation that put me in position to play is more important than me playing," said Price, the Utah Valley State product in his third NBA season. "My heart goes out to Jason and his family, and I hope that him and his family can recover. We'd like to see Jason back out here."
Price played 14 minutes Monday, scoring eight and grabbing four rebounds and a steal but getting no assists.
"Two turnovers, I didn't like that. A few more shots that you'd like to go in. But overall, I just tried to play defense as hard as I could and hustle as much as I can," he said, calling his performance "OK."
Still, playing a regular shift, "Man, it was more than fun," he said, especially since he contributed to a 102-75 victory. "Fun that we got to win coming off that tough little road game spree," he added of the Jazz weekend failures at Cleveland and Indiana.
Though Price seemed anxious to do everything at once at times, he said he hadn't worried about catching favor with his play Monday." It's not about impressing anyone. It's about being a professional and having to do my job when my name is called," Price said.
Coach Jerry Sloan was reasonably pleased with Price's play.
"Yeah, he just tried to run our offense. He got us into our offense. Those are the things that he has to do," said Sloan, who has seemed patient with his two free-agent backup points, Hart and Price.
"The little nuances of what we're trying to do, he's not into that too well at this point because I think he's still trying to figure out what we're in. You change guys around a little bit, and that's always confusing to anybody. But he works hard. That's all you can ask."
Sloan said he knows neither of those players is Deron Williams, and he's not asking them to be, especially 12 games into the season. He noted that Price didn't have the chance to learn the offense in the Jazz's summer league and said it takes a long time for young guys to get up to speed, noting the improvement in sophomore Ronnie Brewer after a year watching.
"Of course, you've got to be out there and feel it," said Price, "but watching the game never hurts, especially when you're watching good players. I'm fortunate enough to have an All-Star point guard in front of me and also a great leadership guy also in front of me with Jason Hart and Deron Williams."
During a good bit of his service Monday, Price was matched against another Utah collegian, Eddie Gill from Weber State. Price knew of Gill but never played against him in college as Gill, who did play in the 2007 Rocky Mountain Revue for the Jazz, is five years older. "Maybe if we'd went against each other in college maybe it would have been a little rivalry," Price said.Gill made 4-of-5 shots and scored 12 points with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, two turnovers and two fouls.