With two players out of state with excused absences and three sitting out with various medical issues, the Utah Jazz didn't even have enough to scrimmage at Tuesday's final practice before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Coach Jerry Sloan said the team would work on skeleton drills and shooting among other things. Special assistant coach Jeff Hornacek had already spent time working on shooting with Andrei Kirilenko and Gordan Giricek.
Point guard Deron Williams missed the practice to have surgery for an ingrown toenail on his right big toe. The work was done by team podiatrist Dr. Michael Lowe.
Center Mehmet Okur did not practice due to a sore back, and forward Matt Harpring did only rehabilitation work on his right knee after playing 14 minutes in Monday's 102-75 win in EnergySolutions Arena against the New Jersey Nets. Harpring had surgery to clean out the knee in August.
Forward Carlos Boozer had permission to return to his home in Miami following Monday's game to be with his family for the holiday. His baby son Carmani recently underwent a bone marrow transplant to combat sickle cell disease. And guard Jason Hart was in Los Angeles for the funeral of his grandmother; he missed Monday's game.
With rookie center Kyrylo Fesenko assigned to the NBA Development League Orem Flash, Sloan had just nine players for practice, but he didn't seem concerned. He was, in fact, encouraged at how the Jazz responded Monday after losing two road games Friday and Saturday.
"It's amazing to me how hard it is to win. People don't have any idea how hard it is to win, every day to be out there and try to win ballgames," Sloan said. "Our guys have done a pretty good job trying to fight back over the years. I was pleased the way our team fought back last night," he said, adding that although New Jersey hasn't played well, "we still had to go beat them. Playing against the type team they were certainly was a huge concern."
HOLIDAY: Youngsters C.J. Miles and Ronnie Brewer said they'll probably spend Thanksgiving at Paul Millsap's home. "His mom can cook," Brewer said.
Both said it's too much of a risk and a rush to try to travel home to Arkansas (Brewer) and Texas (Miles) when they'd have to be back for a Thursday-night practice.
"These guys are pretty much family so it doesn't hurt so much," said Miles, in his third season. He said he'll use his time off resting and playing video games, working out and shooting a little.
"You get a little break," said Brewer, "but at the same time, you'd rather stay here, relax a little bit, get your legs under you, focus on the next game. We've got some big games coming up."
His parents visit once or twice a month, and his mother was here for two weeks but is now with his sister, who recently had a baby, "so I don't feel bad at all that she's not up here. My brother is here.'
His 34-year-old brother is his "best friend" and lives with Brewer. "If I didn't live with him back home I was with him every day," said Ronnie, adding his brother played a bit of basketball, "but he's short, like, smaller than Ronnie Price (6-foot-2)," said the 6-7 younger brother, tallest in the family.
HOLIDAY II: Jazz front office staff, players' wives, Deron Williams' Point of Hope Foundation, ESA staff and the Salt Lake Mission will provide Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless and low-income people today on the ESA concourse, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The Mission will provide transportation to the arena.
RED AND BLUE: Sloan jokingly asked who's playing and in what sport regarding a question about Saturday's BYU-Utah football game in Provo. "That ball doesn't even bounce," he said, adding, "I hope both of them win."
Miles wouldn't say whom he wanted to win but knows Ute defensive back Brice McCain from high school, when they were rivals on the basketball court. Well, maybe not rivals. "We beat them every year. You let him know that. Four years," Miles said. He also knows Ute quarterback Brian Johnson, another Texan, though they didn't meet until last year in Salt Lake City.
"I don't have a favorite, but I am pulling for my guys," Miles said. "I might have to watch that game. It will be a good game, and plus, I want to be able to talk about it. It seems like it will be talked about for a while, so I don't want to be left out of the conversation."Brewer said he'll probably watch the game, "but Arkansas plays LSU, so got to focus on that. I don't know our chances, but I'll take them."