Jason Hart knew what he was getting into when he signed with the Utah Jazz as a free agent during the offseason. He knew he had no chance of unseating Deron Williams, one of the best young point guards in the league, to get into Utah's starting lineup.
And he knew playing 8 to 12 minutes a game in a reserve role wouldn't be easy. Yet it is exactly what he signed up to do.
"It's been difficult because you want to play so well in a short period of time and sometimes you press," said Hart, who averaged 32 minutes per game as a starter down the stretch last season for the Clippers.
But during Tuesday's 111-89 blowout victory over the Indiana Pacers at EnergySolutions Arena, Hart saw plenty of action. He made the most of it too, tying a season high with 11 points along with five rebounds and three assists in a season-high 23 minutes of action.
Hart "played well tonight," said fellow reserve Matt Harpring. "He made some shots and ran the team and that's his job. He's got to come in and play hard and hit some shots when he's open and pass the ball and he did that."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was pleased with the play of all of his reserves, with good reason. In addition to Hart's strong play, Harpring added a season-high 16 points while Kyle Korver scored 12 and Paul Millsap added nine points and eight boards.
"Our second group, I thought, had a very good game," said Sloan. "They played extremely well Matt Harpring, Jason Hart, Paul Millsap, Korver those guys definitely did a great job. They just executed the offense and passed the ball."
While the Jazz starters staked the team with a big early lead, the Jazz bench kept the Pacers at bay and even increased the lead at times. Utah's reserves outscored Indiana's 28-7 in the first half and 54-35 for the game.
"Our bench has been phenomenal," said Jazz forward Carlos Boozer. "We have guys that come off the bench that are ready to play ball. When they play as well as they played, we're a pretty good team. We're tough the beat."
While playing behind a star like Williams isn't easy, Hart says he's getting used to it.
"Deron is a great young player, so I just need to pick my spots and, when he gets in foul trouble, be ready," he said.
Overall, Hart likes what he's seen from the Jazz's reserves."Our bench gives good energy," said Hart. "Of course our starters are going to carry a lot of the weight, but Kyle and Matt provide scoring and I try to provide a defensive spark. The bench is doing O.K. We've just got to stay consistent and play better defense."
E-mail: [email protected]