HOUSTON — He gets posted up down low.

Matt Harpring leans on his man, but the big Ukrainian center spins and scores overhead.

It has absolutely nothing to do with what Harpring dealt with in Monday's Game 2 of the Utah-Houston Rockets NBA playoff series, but it has everything to do with the Jazz's future.

And it was just one of the sideshows as the Jazz wrapped up a shootaround and conducted media interviews Monday morning at the Toyota Center here.

As stragglers headed toward the team bus, special assistant Jeff Hornacek was working with backup shooting guard Kyle Korver on — go figure — his shot.

A few minutes earlier, as Jazz coach Jerry Sloan spoke to reporters on one end of the floor, Hornacek was feeding passes on the other to Kyrylo Fesenko.

Harpring was playing the part of both defender on and informal mentor to Fesenko, a rookie center whom the Jazz veteran sees as a project with promise.

"I told him we were going to start working together," said Harpring, who worked as hard during his session with Fesenko as he would during any regular practice. "This last week we started, and every day we're gonna do some stuff to try to get him better.

"He's got some potential," the veteran small forward added. "He's got such raw ability, and if he could just channel it. You know, he's young, a little immature."

Yet Harpring sees enough hope for the inexperienced 21-year-old that he's decided to take the 7-foot-1 Fesenko — who spent most of the season with the NBA Development League's Utah Flash, and who has been inactive for the first two games of the series -under his wing.

Getting the 2007 second-round draft choice to focus, Harpring acknowledged, may be his most difficult task.

"That's hard," he said. "Some of that is he's got to learn how to live in the NBA. He's such a young guy, and I don't think he has anyone mentoring him — telling him how to eat, what do you do in your off time, what are you supposed to do as far as practice.

"I told him (Sunday), 'Just because we practice for two hours a day, that doesn't mean that's all NBA players do. Don't think you're done for the day,' " Harpring added. "I mean, a lot of us come back at night and shoot. Then we go to the weight room, or we get on the cardio machine, and watch film. There's a lot of things that goes along with being an NBA player, and he'll figure that out."

Hornacek, meanwhile, toils with Korver — who hit two big 3-pointers in the second half of the Jazz's Game 1 victory Saturday — on his long-distance shot.

He's worked as well on the shooting stroke of small forward Andrei Kirilenko, who immediately credited Hornacek after hitting 8-for-12 from the field and scoring a team-high 21 points in Game 1.

"He has been a great shooter, back like five years ago, and his whole career," Kirilenko said of Hornacek, who actually retired after the 1999-2000 season. "So all the little tips, all the strategy, how to shoot the ball, all the routine, how to prepare to hit a shot — I mean, it definitely helped me.

"You think it would be (magic). No. It's a work in process. Practice, practice and practice," Kirilenko added. "You warm up with a different kind of shot, and then you're shooting with a full speed, high speed with different arc, with defense, no defense, moving, no moving, stationary shots — I mean, it's just a matter of practice."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan welcomes the helping hand of Hornacek, who periodically commuted from his home in the Phoenix area to Utah during the regular season.

He joined the Jazz in Houston over the weekend, and — now that he's here — Sloan holds him up as an example to be followed.

Not just when it comes to shooting, either.

"He was a very, very good player in this league, and had one great skill to be able to shoot the ball," Sloan said, "but another one (too), because he's smart and knew what was going on in the game.

"He doesn't look like a very tough guy, but he was a tough guy. He played, basically, on one knee for a year or two," Sloan added. "I always tell guys, 'He always kept guys in front of him on one leg.' And we've got guys on two that have a tough time. So, it's not impossible if you're willing to work at it — and Jeff was always a tremendous worker."

If only Fesenko can follow suit, Harpring's work will be done.


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