LOS ANGELES — Turns out, the Utah Jazz's starting lineup mirrors the makeup of the team.
It's an infusion of young and old.
Up-and-comers Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward joined veterans Devin Harris, Raja Bell and Al Jefferson on the court at tipoff time for the season-opener against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin likes the mix.
It's got experience and youthful talent.
Increased size and athleticism.
Fresh legs and wily veterans.
"I think," Corbin said at the team's morning shootaround, "the lineup gives us a chance to be versatile."
One thing missing from the lineup?
Last year's starting power forward, Paul Millsap.
That was not an easy decision to make for Corbin, who held out as long as he possibly could to announce his starters.
But the move does several things — they hope positive ones — for the Jazz's frontcourt.
First off, Favors is 6-foot-10, so he gives Utah a couple more inches inside than the 6-foot-8 Millsap. Likewise, the 6-8 Hayward has two inches on C.J. Miles, so Utah is putting a bigger product on the court.
It also shows a commitment and confidence Corbin has placed on the future of the franchise with second-year guys Favors and Hayward.
"(Favors) played hard. He improved from last year," Corbin said. "He's showed that he's ready to take a step forward, taking nothing away from other guys."
"He's always had talent and skills," Jefferson added about Favors. "He worked real hard this summer. One thing I see this year that I didn't see last year is the confidence."
The Jazz coach emphasized over and over that this is not a benching for Millsap, who believed the starting job belonged to him. Same goes for Miles, who started the first preseason game and came into camp hoping to earn a starter's role.
Rather, Corbin complimented both players for working hard and being in great shape.
"We want everybody to be ready to play, that's the main thing," Corbin said.. "Don't worry about who's starting or who's getting the glory. We want to go out and (give) the Jazz a chance to win the game."
Millsap was a bit more subdued than usual at shootaround, but that was partially because he was disappointed his quad was re-aggravated at practice Monday "out of nowhere." The pain is tolerable, he said, but he also realizes the Jazz have six games in the next eight days. His decision to play Tuesday was not taken lightly.
As for starting, Millsap has been up-front — with media and his coach — about his desire to keep the position he had all last season.
"(Coach) knows me, he knows my preference. I also know that I'm a team player," Millsap said. "If the coach says that it will help our team, then I've got to be willing to do whatever."
Added Corbin: "I want him to be a little disappointed ... (but) I don't want him to think of it as a demotion."
Millsap, entering his sixth season, said he will use this as a source of motivation.
"I don't see it (as) going back to the bench. I'm going to play minutes," Millsap said. "It's tough to have your mind set on something and then not happen, so I started the season off thinking I was going to be a starter. But going to the bench is not always a bad thing. You've got to look at it in a positive sense. Just do the best I can with that."2 comments on this story
Corbin is excited about the reserve weapons he has at his disposal, with Millsap, Miles, Earl Watson, Josh Howard, Jeremy Evans et al.
"With the change," he said, "it gives us a chance to be stronger off the bench."
While some hoped to see Miles or rookie Alec Burks get the starting shooting guard nod, Corbin spoke highly of Bell's fitness level and leadership skills.
"He deserves to start," the coach said of the 12th-year NBA vet. "He stepped up. He knows how to play. He feels great about his body and where he is there. And the guys feel good about playing with him."
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