AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Being back in Detroit, where he won an NBA championship ring with the Pistons, may have had something to do with it.

But there is much more than that to Mehmet Okur's 4-of-16 shooting effort in the Jazz's 103-93 win over the Pistons on Sunday.

From Jazz coach Jerry Sloan's perspective, there was this:

"He was forcing shots," Sloan said of Okur, who started 0-for-8 from the field. "It looks to me like he's forcing his shot to get his shot up.

"We'll get him shots in our offense," Sloan added. "But you catch the ball and hold it and just try to shoot — that's not in much of a rhythm. Sometimes he can get away with that, but other times he's got to get in our offense and execute our offense."

From Okur's perspective, there was this: "I think I need to go maybe get some easy baskets, and get to the free-throw line, before I take long jumpers," the usually solid long-distance shooting center said. "Get in the paint, get myself going. That's what I'm gonna try."

Sloan, who gives Okur a green light to shoot at will, doesn't mind the longer shots — as long as they come within the context of the Jazz offense.

"When we do that, we have a chance to rebound," he said. "When we do it the other way, we have no chance in the world — because we have four guys standing, watching what he's doing.

"That doesn't make us very effective rebounding," the Jazz coach added. "That doesn't make us very effective in anything else."

MOVING ON: After losing by 20 points to Indiana in the final game of their last three-game road trip, the Jazz vowed to open this one in better fashion.

"We've got to become a better road team and look at this trip to get that rolling a little bit," forward Carlos Boozer said after Utah improved to 4-3 away from EnergySolutions Arena. "Because if we're gonna be an elite team in this league, we have to ... know that we're gonna play good no matter what arena we're in."

That's especially the case tonight in New York, where the Jazz visit the 3-9 Knicks.

"We can't overlook anybody," point guard Deron Williams said. "You now, Indiana — they smacked us."

MUTUAL ADMIRATION: Much has been made of the relationship between Williams and veteran New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd and the time they spent together playing this past summer for USA Basketball's senior national team.

But Williams — who had a double-double by halftime Sunday — has another big fan in Detroit's Chauncey Billups, also a USA Basketball teammate during the offseason.

According to Sunday's Detroit Free Press, Billups "said he considers Williams the up-and-coming point guard who most fits his mold as a scorer and distributor."

"There were times I just talked to him about situations on the court, me and Jason as well," Billups told the newspaper. "He's one of the bright young stars in the league."

Said Williams of Billups: "(He's) definitely one of those guys I look up to."

MISC.: Jazz television play-by-play Craig Bolerjack missed his scheduled flight after calling Tennessee's four-overtime college-football victory at Kentucky on Saturday night but caught an early flight from Cincinnati on Sunday and made it to suburban Detroit in the knick of time to get on the Jazz bus for Sunday's early afternoon game. Said Bolerjack of a game he said had "the most bizarre combination of oddities" of any he's ever called: "I knew by the third overtime I was going to miss the flight." ... Rookie Morris Almond again was inactive for the Jazz ... Contrary to the probable starters listed in their pregame notes, the Utah Flash — D-League affiliate of the Jazz — wound up starting Jazz-assigned center Kyrylo Fesenko in their season-opening win Saturday night at Anaheim. Fesenko finished with 11 points, five rebounds, five fouls and two blocks while logging 20 minutes in the opener.


E-mail: [email protected]