Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
Ex-UVSC star Ronnie Price has worked his way up the rotation in his first season with the Jazz.

Carlos Boozer sat in front of his corner locker, one thought interrupted by another as he broke down the Jazz's win Saturday over Atlanta.

The one that took precedence was delivered loud enough for anyone in the room to hear.

"And Ronnie Price was ballin'," the Jazz's All-Star power forward shouted.

Told he and Price — a Utah Valley State product who recently climbed past veteran Jason Hart to become the Jazz's chief backup point guard — seem to read and feed well off of each other, Boozer heartily agreed.

"We play good together, man," he said. "We do. Because Ronnie is a scoring point guard — and we're turning him into a point guard-point guard."

Jazz backup power forward Paul Millsap, making his way to the shower after the Utah's 14th straight victory at home, couldn't help but hear Boozer's point about Price playing the point.

He stopped, pivoted and smiled with a yeah-right look of disbelief.

The tale of transformation in Price's game probably is more the story of slow-but-sure work in progress, then, with the building blocks just now taking shape.

Yet Price indeed seems to have a handle on just what is needed from, and expected of, the person who plays point behind starter Deron Williams.

"My job still is just to maintain every lead we have, or, if we don't have a lead, try to break them defensively and get a lead," he said.

"I just want to provide energy when I step on the court and get the guys around me to play with energy," added Price, who along with the rest of the 36-20 Jazz has tonight off before playing Tuesday at Minnesota. "That's what a point guard's supposed to do. He's supposed to motivate the team; he's supposed to be the coach that's on the floor. So that's what I try to do."

Boozer, for one, can't be happier with the way he's going about it.

"We do play good together," he said, "because if they don't guard him he's gonna score. If they double him, he's gonna dish it off and I'm gonna get a dunk on somebody."

And some teams do tend to play off Price, daring him to shoot from 3-point range despite a 38.2 percent success rate from behind the long-distance line that ranks third-best among Jazz trey takers this season behind only Williams' 39.4 percent and reserve swingman C.J. Miles' 43.1 percent.

"They can sit back all they want," Price said. "Sometimes they'll fall; sometimes they won't."

It's not as if Price fancies himself a Kyle Korver-type sharpshooter anyway.

Instead, he depends largely on athleticism and much better-than-average hops for a 6-foot-2 guy to get deflections, attack the basket and finish the occasional splashy dunk.

"My key role," Price said, "is to get in and play defense and get the guys into the offense."

So what if it's not exactly 40 minutes of Williams-to-Boozer like play?

There still has been a comfy relationship developing in the limited time that Price — now averaging eight minutes per game — is able to be on the floor.

"With Booz and everyone else, they just make it easier," said Price, who signed with the Jazz as a free agent last offseason after spending his first two NBA seasons as one of the backups to then-Kings point guard Mike Bibby in Sacramento.

"He (Boozer) sets good screens, and he draws so much attention, it just makes it easy to make things happen on the pick-and-roll," he added. "You know, Deron and Booz do it all game. So I just try to fill in."

Early in the season, Price — who also sometimes plays off-guard next to Williams when opponents counter with two small guards — wasn't even afforded the opportunity to do that.

The more-experienced Hart, also an ex-Bibby backup in Sacramento, claimed the backup job coming out of training camp.

He held onto it for quite some time, even as many Jazz diehards lobbied loudly — in message boards, on sports-talk radio and around the water cooler — for Price to get his chance.

Hart even retained the role for a few games after missing six straight during late January/early February due a bulging disc and inflammation in his lower back, an injury sustained during a fall against his old Kings club.

Eventually, though, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan — impressed with what he saw from Price during the half-dozen games Hart missed, including 8-of-18 field shooting and a solid understanding of the Utah offense — made the switch.

Also likely influencing the decision: games against Sacramento on Feb. 8 and Chicago on Feb. 9 in which Price was at his best.

He logged double-digit minutes both nights, partly because starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer was out with a bruised tailbone.

Price shot 4-of-5 in a loss to the Kings the first night, and Sloan was kicking himself a bit afterward for not sticking with him longer.

The 24-year-old Texas native followed that up with another 4-for-5 night against the Bulls. He came off the bench first behind Williams in the second half of that game, and has held the backup job in the four games since.

"He's been playing great ever since he's been given full-time backup minutes," Williams said. "I've been real proud of him."

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