MINNEAPOLIS Morris Almond doesn't detect a drastic difference.
But spending much of the season with the NBA Development League's Utah Flash has had subtle impact on his growth as a pro, the Jazz's 2007 first-round draft choice suggested after being recalled in time to join the team for today's game at Minnesota.
"I won't say I'm too much of a different player. A lot of little things," Almond said Saturday. "Off the court, things like ... quick turnaround, come off a plane, be at practice next morning. Things like that that you get to experience. It's not always Xs and Os on the floor."
The Jazz, who called up Almond and teammate Kyrylo Fesenko because of a sudden rash of illness and injury, are practicing patience with their rookie from Rice University.
"He was the whole offense, or a lot of the offense, at Rice, and he had to learn (this season) to incorporate himself with four other good players," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said when asked about the club's biggest concern with Almond.
"Sometimes that takes awhile," O'Connor added. "If you look at his history, he starts slow. At Rice he started slow, (but) when he got it, he got it pretty good."
Almond, who has averaged 25 points but just 1.6 assists in 31 D-League games, said he was told specifically what to work on while with the Flash.
"Oh, yeah," he said, "there were points of emphasis to work on: getting ready to go every night, consistency, intensity on both sides of the ball, little intangibles."
Both Almond and Fesenko, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan suggested, have shown some improvement while toiling with the Orem-based farm team.
But he expects more from both.
"They have a lot of work to do to become better players," Sloan said. "The biggest thing is learning how to work. It looks like these guys don't work sometimes ... But they know what's going on, they have an understanding."
Almond, Sloan added, "can't just come in and want to shoot and (have) everybody else defend, everybody else run the floor for me."Everybody would like it to be that way sometimes," he said, "but you have to carry your load, and that's a good place to learn how to do it."
C.J.'S SUMMER: Jazz brass continue to make it clear they feel third-year swingman C.J. Miles, who started at shooting guard in Friday's win over the Los Angeles Clippers because Ronnie Brewer was ill, made the wrong call by sitting out last July's Rocky Mountain Revue during his summer of restricted free agency."I think a mistake that CJ made, this summer he fell behind," general manager Kevin O'Connor said Saturday, reiterating comments made recently by Sloan. "If you look at what he did coming into training camp, and through our exhibition season when he had an opportunity to play a lot, I think that affected him. He shot 19 percent from the floor during the exhibition season. I think there was progress (his first two years), and I think it stalled."
MERRY CHRISTMAS: Ex-Jazz guard Kirk Snyder has started 12 of 15 games and averaged 8.7 points in 27 minutes per game since getting traded from Houston to Minnesota last month.
Snyder will be a free agent this offseason, but recently told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that while he's still getting accustomed to living in Minnesota he remains open to the notion of returning to the Timberwolves."I like it here," said Snyder, one of Utah's first-round picks in 2004. "It's a nice place. I've got to get used to the cold. It's snowing here and there. I'm looking outside and it's like, OK, it's Christmas every day."
Contributing: Linda Hamilton