Although the Utah Jazz are only 16-14 and were in 10th place in the Western Conference on Thursday, coach Jerry Sloan seems satisfied with the effort he's seen from his team as it prepared to head to Los Angeles for tonight's 8:30 p.m. MST game against the Lakers.
"I'd say that these guys have worked pretty hard, for the most part,' he said at Thursday's practice. "We've lost some tough games. It's not like we've given up 20, 30 points in a ballgame or gotten beat by that kind of numbers. We're right there, and our guys have worked pretty hard.'
He would like to see his young club "work a little bit more intelligently. I think that's the biggest thing. And some of that has to do with the experience factor that these guys get caught in. A lot of them have never been in a lot of tough games.'
The Jazz played well in winning 113-94 at Orlando last Friday and made a strong comeback before losing by two at Miami the next night in the fourth game of a road trip.
"It's not that we're not capable,' Sloan said. "Sometimes where you're put in a situation where the pressure's a little bit different, you have to learn how to react to that.'
Making it to the Western Conference Finals in last spring's playoffs helped educate the players on pressure, but at the same time, it put a target on their chests."Last year there wasn't a great deal of pressure because these guys were young and nobody really expected a lot, it seemed like,' Sloan said. "Now they have to play with a different kind of pressure on them, and that's something you learn, and you learn a lot about your teammates under those conditions."
ALL-STAR UPDATE: There's been little change in Utah's status according to Thursday's second set of All-Star balloting from the NBA. Carlos Boozer remains the fourth-place vote-getter among Western Conference forwards, and Mehmet Okur remains in sixth place among Western centers.
Carmelo Anthony of Denver continues to top the forwards, but San Antonio's Tim Duncan moved past Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas into second place on the second set of figures that was released Thursday. The order of vote-getting among centers remains Houston's Yao Ming, Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, Dallas' Erick Dampier, Denver's Marcus Camby, Memphis' Pau Gasol and then Okur, just 16,024 votes ahead of Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge.
No Jazz guards made the top 10 for the second straight time.
The current Western totals: Forwards Carmelo Anthony (Den) 767,722; Tim Duncan (SA) 722,059; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 686,853; Carlos Boozer (Utah) 281,299; Josh Howard (Dal) 251,756; Shawn Marion (Pho) 240,752; Shane Battier (Hou) 227,112; Luis Scola (Hou) 222,896; Kevin Durant (Sea) 191,542; Grant Hill (Pho) 152,898.
Guards Kobe Bryant (LAL) 941,716; Tracy McGrady (Hou) 663,141; Steve Nash (Pho) 526,493; Allen Iverson (Den) 514,291; Manu Ginobili (SA) 220,620; Jason Terry (Dal) 200,693; Baron Davis (GS) 194,048; Chris Paul (NO) 189,646; Tony Parker (SA) 183,173; Jerry Stackhouse (Dal) 178,152.Centers Yao Ming (Hou) 813,305; Amare Stoudemire (Pho) 463,916; Erick Dampier (Dal) 171,386; Marcus Camby (Den) 161,807; Pau Gasol (Mem) 118,759; Mehmet Okur (Utah) 85,715; LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 69,691; Tyson Chandler (NO) 69,083; Andris Biedrins (GS) 67,862; Chris Kaman (LAC) 66,315.
OH, SHOOT: Over his last five games, 20-year-old two-guard C.J. Miles has made 20 of 35 field-goal attempts, eight of his last 15 3-point tries and has been 3-for-5 on free throws.
"Hopefully he keeps shooting like that because we need that, somebody to be able to knock down shots," said point guard Deron Williams, attributing Miles' success to "confidence, working on his shot."
Miles, in his third season, agrees it's confidence and getting in rhythm, which he said he's been working on. He also was cognizant that, once he got a chance to play that he needed to do something with that chance."That was the biggest thing for me, not to get a chance but to be able to play but to be confident that I can do it. It's just learning how to do it and what to do to prepare yourself for the game not that I wasn't working hard before, but it was just learning how to do it."
ALUMNI UPDATE: Former Jazzman Randy Livingston (2004-05), a fixture in the NBA Development League, set a D-League record with 22 assists Wednesday, helping his Idaho Stampede beat Bakersfield 114-99. He was one of three players who held the old record of 20. He also had 15 points, while another former Jazz camper/Revue player, Cory Violette, had 17 and former Weber State/University of Utah player Lance Allred had 24 points, 14 rebounds.
FESENKO SENT TO FLASH: Kyrylo Fesenko was sent to the Utah Flash of the NBA Development League (D-League) by the Utah Jazz Thursday. Fesenko joins fellow rookie Morris Almond who is already on assignment with the Flash and was recently named D-League Player of the Week.
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