The Jazz seem somewhat conflicted over what to do with rookie center Kyrylo Fesenko.
On one hand, he was a much-needed help in last Friday's win over the Los Angeles Lakers and, at 7-foot-1, his size warranted dressing (though not playing) him for Monday's game against Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat.
On the other, they like the strides he made playing for their NBA Development League affiliate Utah Flash and know how important he is to the expansion farm team.
"They've done a great job helping this kid get better by having him there and working him every day and letting him play in games," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "They're doing all this stuff for us, but in the meantime they've got to have a competitive team to get fans come watch them to play. We want to help them as much as we can in that situation as well.
"It's tough on the D-League ... the owner, and all those people. Because they want to win every game, and rightfully so," added Sloan, whose nephew-by-marriage, Brad Jones, coaches the Flash. "That's a very difficult thing to deal with. If you're a coach, you lose you best player, or one of your better players, now you're stuck."
Sloan likes the maturity Fesenko has shown since his return from the Flash.
"His demeanor out here is 100 percent better than what it was when he left ... just being a little bit more professional about what he's doing," Sloan said.
It's what Fesenko is striving for.
"I ... try to think, try to act, like a pro," he said Monday.
As for Fesenko's off-beat personality off the court, coach and teammates alike seem completely accepting of the big Ukrainian.
"I think he's immature," Sloan said. "I don't think the word 'goofy' is a fair analysis of him, because he's a young kid that's (20) years old (and) out of his country. ... You put me in that country, I may be off-center a little bit. I'm over here and I'm still off-center."
"You can't change who you are, and I would preach that to anybody: Be who you are," forward Carlos Boozer added. "But on the court he's been more mature."
The Jazz's immediate plans included taking Fesenko to Sacramento for tonight's game against the Kings. Beyond that, though, may be more a matter of when than if he returns to the Flash.
"I don't worry about that," Fesenko said. "I'm here to play basketball. NBA, (D-League) it doesn't matter."
BOOZER HONORED: The NBA on Monday named Boozer its Western Conference Player of the Month for games played from the start of the season through November, making him Utah's first player so honored since Karl Malone seven years ago.
Boozer ranked third among league leaders in scoring with an average of 25.4 points per game and averaged 11.2 rebounds while helping the Jazz open the season 11-5.
He also scored at least 30 points six times during that span and posted 12 double-doubles, second-most in the NBA as of Monday.
Orlando's Dwight Howard was named Eastern Conference player of the month by averaging 23.8 points and a league-leading 15.0 rebounds.
Also Monday, Juneau-raised Boozer was named to the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2008.
He's joined by fellow ex-Duke basketball star Trajan Langdon, former NFL offensive lineman Mark Schlereth, deceased Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race competitor Joe Redington Sr. and five-time Iditarod champ Rick Swenson.MISC.: With Fesenko active Monday, the Jazz made swingman C.J. Miles and shooting guard Morris Almond inactive. Miles had backed up starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer in last Friday's win over the Lakers. ... With Miles out, Gordan Giricek not Ronnie Price, as in three games late last month was back as the Jazz's backup 2. ... Boston on Monday assigned rookie guard Gabe Pruitt to the Flash, who are shared by the Celtics and Jazz as an affiliate, for the second time this season.
E-mail: [email protected]