PHILADELPHIA They're growing before our very eyes, making mistakes that may pay dividends down the road and getting schooled at times by guys who have been around just a few more blocks.
They are the Jazz's starting backcourt combination of shooting guard Ronnie Brewer and point Deron Williams, and this week they are padding their still somewhat scant resumes with on-the-job experience against aging types like Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton in Detroit and Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford in New York.
By the end of this season, all but Crawford among those four will be at least 30 years old.
More of the same comes tonight, when the Jazz visit a Philadelphia 76ers team whose starting backcourt against Milwaukee on Tuesday night 31-year-old former University of Utah star Andre Miller, and shooting guard Willie Green has logged 600-plus more games than Williams-Brewer.
It is both a blessing and a curse for the Jazz, yet one coach Jerry Sloan seems more than willing to endure.
"Your young players are the thing that you're probably concerned the most about," Sloan said, "because we're using two young players in the backcourt against guys that have a little more experience."
By the same token, Sloan added, "That's the thing. You like to see them grow. And Ronnie's certainly done that, and Deron's done that. That's the future of the team, when you look at it with the guys we have and, hopefully, they can continue to get better."
Williams and Brewer took a step forward in that regard last Sunday, with both drawing high praise from Sloan for their efforts in a 103-93 win over the Pistons that opened a three-game trip for the Jazz.
Statistically, that particular backcourt matchup was about a wash with the Jazz's pair combining for 32 points and 15 assists (Williams had 21 and 14) and Detroit's teaming for 32 points and 13 assists.
But it was the way they played that had Sloan practically glowing, especially considering that Williams, early in his third NBA season, still is just 23 years old, and Brewer, early in his second, is 22.
Together, the two came into this season having played a combined 216 regular-season games.
Billups and Hamilton?
Together, they've played more than 1,300 games over 18 seasons.
In New York, however, it was a step back against Marbury and Crawford, who also have 18 seasons, and nearly 1,300 games, between them.
The two combined for 50 points and helped force the Jazz into five fourth-quarter turnovers as the Knicks won 113-109, leaving Sloan to mutter, "Look at the experience of our backcourt, and the experience of their backcourt."
It's become something of a theme for Sloan to drop from time-to-time, perhaps second only to how Andrei Kirilenko does virtually nothing wrong.
Yet not all was lost for the Jazz at Madison Square Garden.
In yet another sure sign of the All-Star-in-the-making's rapidly developing maturity, Williams readily accepted personal responsibility for Marbury's 28-point performance.
"That's on me," he said.
"I had a bad defensive effort," Williams added. "I think he went to the hole too many times on me. Too many blow-bys. It's something (I've) got to try to contain."
Brewer, meanwhile, had his hands full with Crawford and was beat off the dribble several times by him and others.
Chalk it up as a lesson for the future, both Williams and Sloan suggested.
"This definitely is good experience for him, especially playing against the type of guard he played against," Williams said after Brewer's first appearance at the Garden. "He (Crawford) is a guy that (isolates), and he (Brewer) has got to learn to contain."
"Again," Sloan added, "you're talking about a learning experience. He's got to learn to get up in guys, and if he fouls them once in a while let 'em know he's around there and go after 'em a little bit harder."
Sloan seemed to have little doubt that the tutorial will be remembered, if for no other reason than the strides already shown since a 56-game rookie season in which the coach said Brewer "probably felt 'mistreated' a little bit ... because he was a young player and didn't understand."
"From where he was a year ago and where he is today, what he's been able to accomplish thus far in the season ... you have to give him a lot of credit," the Jazz coach said."He's moved along pretty well," Sloan added. "I mean, I think as he gains more confidence in himself hopefully he'll just continue to improve."
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