Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan may have finally found a backup shooting guard that won't drive him crazy.
C.J. Miles, the 20-year-old youngster from the Dallas area, helped the Jazz to a 99-90 victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena. Miles, who scored a season-high 20 points in Miami in his previous game, made both of his 3-point attempts and had eight points in 19 minutes against Dallas.
"C.J.'s playing with a lot more confidence and he's not afraid to make plays and take big shots," Sloan said.
Miles has been getting more playing time of late in the absence of Gordan Giricek, whose rocky relationship with Sloan took a turn for the worse last week when he was sent home during the middle of a four-game road trip. Giricek missed his third consecutive game on Wednesday but was to meet with Sloan and Jazz senior vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor this morning to see if he would be reinstated to the team.
But even if Giricek is back with the Jazz, as expected, Miles figures to continue getting the bulk of the minutes behind starter Ronnie Brewer.
"(Miles) has done a better job lately of letting the game come to him and taking what is there," Sloan said. "He's worked hard in practice. Some of these guys tell you that they've been working hard in practice, but I see them there every day and know that they don't always (work hard). But with C.J., it shows that he's been practicing hard."
Miles, who came to the Jazz at 17 right out of high school, was seldom used in his first two years in the NBA. He earned demerit points with Sloan last summer when he failed to participate in the summer training camp and Rocky Mountain Revue, opting to work out on his own rather than risk injury since he was a free agent at the time. But the Jazz coach seems to have forgiven the youngster for missing the Revue.
"You have a chance of becoming better when you work at your trade and (Miles has) been doing that," Sloan said.
For his part, Miles is feeling like he is ready to contribute on a more regular basis for the Jazz.
"I feel comfortable out on the floor," said Miles. "I'm just finding my spots and staying within the offense. We've got good passers on this team and we're just sharing the ball."
Of course, Miles knows that no matter how well he plays at the offensive end of the court, his coach won't hesitate to put him back on the end of the bench if he doesn't play defense.
"Everything we've been talking about has been defensive geared," said Miles. "Offensively, we don't have any problems. We have a lot of talented people on the offensive end, so we just need to come out and play hard on the defensive end."
Miles and Brewer combined to go 10-for-14 from the field for 23 points. They also helped slow down Dallas star Josh Howard. Howard scored 17 points on Wednesday after torching the Jazz for 47 points the first time the two teams played this season.
"We needed a win and we had to pull out all the strings," said Brewer, who finished with four steals and 15 points. "I just wanted to provide some intensity and pick up the defense."
Brewer was forced out of the game briefly in the third quarter with a dislocated pinky finger on his left hand, but the Jazz doctor and trainers popped it back into place, taped it and he came back into the game down the stretch.
The Jazz, after a road-heavy December schedule, will have 11 of the next 16 games at home where they are 10-2 on the year."We've got to protect the home court," said Brewer, "but we've also got to find a way to win on the road."