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August Miller, Deseret News
Former Utah Jazz player Matt Harpring laughs about a missed dunk by one of his camp teachers as he talks to participants at his basketball camp at the Park Center gym in Murray, Utah, Thursday, July 29, 2010.

SALT LAKE CITY — Matt Harpring really hopes NBA owners and players come to a labor agreement soon.

Though the Finals for the 2010-11 campaign barely begun, the former Jazz small forward is already anticipating the tipoff of the 2011-12 season.

"We're looking forward to getting back at it. This month and a half off feels like six months," he said. "I hope there's no lockout, and that we're back soon."

And by we, he means himself and Craig Bolerjack, not to mention the Jazz and their fans.

The Atlanta-based Harpring, who'll return to Utah for two sessions of his 10th annual basketball camp later this month and in July, already misses being behind the microphone while sitting next to his broadcast buddy during multiple Jazz games a week.

"I had a really good time," Harpring said, referring to his rookie season as a color commentator on the Jazz's local broadcasts.

In the first season of his three-year TV analyst contract, Harpring tried to combine fun and entertainment, statistical research, personal knowledge and insight of the Jazz and basketball in his new gig.

"It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but I really enjoyed it," Harpring said. "I really looked forward to the games."

Admittedly, the longtime Jazz player enjoyed his job all the more when his old team was winning in the first half of the season.

Yet while he doesn't hide the fact he's "emotionally invested" in the Jazz, Harpring also tried to give fair analysis of both the good and the bad. He had to learn how to distance himself from his emotions at times in order to fairly critique the Jazz while trying to find silver-lining moments in dire situations.

"Some of these players I played with, but I had to call a spade a spade (when) a player didn't play well — and that was hard," he said. "I didn't like saying anything negative, but you have to or you lose credibility as a broadcaster."

On the other hand, Harpring said he was "the first to jump on the bandwagon" when players excelled.

"I tried to be fair," he said.

Overall, the year was a learning experience for Harpring, who had limited experience the previous season in the booth and in the studio (something he has continued to do for NBA-TV the past month or so in the playoffs).

For his Jazz job, Harpring had to learn how to work closely with Bolerjack, how to deal with producers speaking in his ear while he delivered his message and how to prepare and pore through stats to produce relevant information to pass along.

In this wacky season, though, Harpring and Bolerjack had plenty of talking points — from all of the offseason dealings, to the crazy comebacks, the departures of Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams, the hiring of Tyrone Corbin as new head coach, to the second-half slide.

"I think that's going to help me later on to deal with issues that come up," Harpring said. "It was an exciting year."

Harpring cherished his time with Bolerjack, and he liked their chemistry. He also got a kick out of planning and producing various skits and productions with the award-winning TV crew, led by Travis Henderson (executive director) and Joe Krueger (producer/director).

"I think the fans thought that Boler and I were having fun," Harpring said. "That was a big point that I try to bring in to the broadcast. We just kind of jelled as a team. ... We had fun with each other. I hope the fans liked that version rather than being serious all the time. That was a big goal."

Though next season is about five months away — provided a lockout is avoided — Harpring has already begun to brainstorm ideas and thinking of ways he can improve (something he tried to do last season through a self-evaluation process). He even plans to enter the Twitter world.

"In the end, the NBA game is about entertainment. Sometimes as a player you don't realize that," he said. "Fans spend hard-earned money and they want to enjoy watching the game or going to the game, and that's all that matters. ... If they have a good experience, they're going to want to come back and want to watch."

That's why he kept this fan-friendly thought in mind: "Let's make this entertaining."

email: jody@desnews.com

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