NEW ORLEANS Utah Flash-assigned Jazz rookies Morris Almond and Kyrylo Fesenko did some damage in the NBA Development League's own All-Star Game here Saturday, scoring 20 and 14 points, respectively, in their Blue team's 117-99 victory over the Red.
Almond actually had reservations about playing in the game but ultimately decided it was in his best interest.
Similarly, he gradually took to the idea that if he's not going to get NBA playing time with the Jazz, it's not all that bad to be playing big minutes with the Flash.
"I'm fine now," the 2007 first-round draft choice from Rice University said Saturday.
"It first was frustrating, but like all things you get over it and you learn to make the best of it," said Almond, who has had two 50-plus point games with the Flash and shot 8-of-10 from the field after getting hot in Saturday's second half. "I'm having a blast down here."
Fesenko, meanwhile, played particularly hard while snagging eight rebounds to go with 6-of-9 shooting on mostly dunks and layups. The second-round draft choice also took a step back to take a fun late-game trey try, but he missed the mark.
Fesenko, too, has come to grips with the reality that most of his rookie season will be spent in the D-League."I hope so," the big Ukrainian said when asked about perhaps being recalled later this season, "but I don't want to rush nothing. And (Jazz) coach (Jerry) Sloan thinks that it will be better for me to stay (with the Flash), and they don't need me right now, this moment, I agree."
BRYANT A GO: It looks like Kobe Bryant is going to go in tonight's NBA All-Star Game, so Deron Williams won't get his shot.
Bryant didn't practice Saturday because of an injury, but the league will make him play in tonight's game. That dashes Williams' hopes for being named as a replacement player.
"I wish I could play in the game," Williams said Saturday night, "but it didn't work out."
Yet the Jazz, All-Star Carlos Boozer suggested, have only themselves to blame for not also getting point guard Williams into the league's in-season showcase game.
"Honestly," Boozer said, "I really feel like if we had a better December (than 5-11) Deron would have been in the game. Us losing those games, we were hurting him."
Williams' last hope to get in, after failing to win fan support as a starter or enough votes from Western Conference coaches to be a reserve, was if Bryant withdrew because of a torn ligament on his dislocated right pinkie finger.
But the NBA evidently is strong-arming the Los Angeles Lakers' star guard into playing despite his injury, so Williams must watch tonight as a fan in the stands.
The future, Boozer thinks, could be different.
Even with a deep stable of talented guards in the West, he feels next year could be a breakthrough one for Williams as an NBA All-Star."If we win next year like we're winning now," Boozer said of a Jazz team that has lost just once in its last 13 games, "I think he'll be in next season."
HE SAID IT: Western Conference coach Byron Scott, on not being an All-Star during his playing career: "I have three championship rings. That's a lot more important to me."
MISC.: Williams has an endorsement deal with VitaminWater, a new sports-drink company. Boozer, however, is a member of Team POWERade along with fellow All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce and Amare Stoudemire. The four could be seen together on larger-than-life billboards in New Orleans this weekend ... According to a news release about sales records compiled heading into All-Star Weekend by StubHub, an online ticket broker, the Jazz, at $38, "have the lowest average (resale) ticket prices in the NBA ... routinely being snatched up far below box office prices." ... Seen signing autographs Saturday at the NBA Jam Session: ex-Jazz guard John Starks.
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