SALT LAKE CITY — There isn't a player on the Utah Jazz roster that isn't deserving of minutes.
That is second-year coach Tyrone Corbin's story, and he's sticking to it.
Rotations have evolved. Some guys get big minutes, a couple don't.
But Corbin repeats that refrain often, and does it with conviction.
And, yes, he's even thinking of seldom-used end-of-the-bench subs like Jeremy Evans and Jamaal Tinsley along with roller-coaster minute players like C.J. Miles and Alec Burks when he talks about having faith in his baker's dozen.
"We've said from Day 1, we want all 13 guys to be ready to go into the game," Corbin said. "Fortunately for us, we feel good about putting all 13 in the game."
Of course, there's a tough divide between feeling good and actual minute distribution.
Figuring out how to divvy up 240 minutes among five positions is, well, one reason why Corbin gets paid bigger bucks than most couch coaches who have their ideas of playing time allotment.
On one hand, it's hard for players who don't get the minutes they'd prefer to deal with. Yet, it's also a constant mental tug-o-war for Corbin to determine how to dole out the P.T.
"It's tough when you're not playing," Jazz assistant Sidney Lowe admitted. "The (real) tough part is Coach Corbin. He's got 13 guys that he believes in. That's tough, too."
A good tough as long as guys don't allow potential frustrations poison their attitude, work ethic or locker room.
That, Corbin said, hasn't happened yet despite lower minute totals for almost every veteran on the team.
"They've been great," Corbin said. "They understand where we are season-wise. They understand the number of games we've played. Eight games in 12 days is a lot of games. You try to keep guys as fresh as you can, so we have a chance to compete and their bodies feel good."
That unique nature of the lockout-shortened season puts an extra element of difficulty in the time-sharing scenario. Games are coming in bunches, and potential wear-and-tear injuries and burn-out issues have to be carefully monitored.
So does the fact the Jazz are trying to figure out just who in the heck they are with a range of rookies, sophomores and seasoned players who arguably all deserve action.
Some might prefer to see Corbin go with a youth movement, build for the future, throw in the Junior Jazz guys and let them grow on the court, lose or win. That fan faction might not even mind calling it a rebuilding season so long as the bulk of the minutes go to the lottery picks. Just let it roll with Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Burks.
But the Jazz have enough veteran experience that management isn't willing to use that "R" word. A 5-3 start shows Utah can simultaneously win games and develop players.
Burks has seen his playing time increase from the first few games, when he even registered a DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach's Decision) in his first home game against the 76ers.
But the rookie shooting guard is one of 11 Jazz players who average 12 or more minutes a game. (Evans and Tinsley have only seen a combined 10 minutes per contest in five games.)
Center Al Jefferson leads the playing pack with an average of 32.7 minutes an outing, but he's the only guy with more than 27.5 mpg. And his time is down from a 2010-11 average of 35.9 minutes.
Seasoned vets Paul Millsap, Devin Harris, Raja Bell and Miles have also seen decreased game-time action — significant in some cases. Earl Watson is the only veteran player whose time has increased — from 19.6 minutes last season to 20.9 mpg.
"We have a unique blend of players. That's Ty's challenge is to find minutes and opportunity for everybody and find the chemistry that's going to work the best," said Bell, who is starting but only averaging 19.1 minutes per game after logging 30.8 mpg last season.
"I think in a 66-game season that's shortened, having that type of depth and youth is a good thing if we can figure out the chemistry and what works the best."
Bell was frustrated with his shooting early this season, but he hasn't complained about his changed role.
"We're creatures of habit, everyone is. It's nice to know what your rotation is and when you're coming in," Bell said. "But that's not always the case, so you have to be able to adjust and be able to make the most of what's given to you when it's given to you. It can be a challenge, but you've got to try to figure out how to do that."
That's the current situation — yet again — Miles finds himself in.
The seventh-year swingman's time has been hit and miss, ranging from between 17 and 26 minutes in the first six games to a combined 13 minutes in Jazz wins over Memphis and Golden State.
The addition of explosive scorer Josh Howard is one factor, and young wings Hayward and Burks are earning their keep.
Lowe had a chat with Miles on Saturday to make sure he's handling the inconsistent time OK. Both coach and player say his mindset is in the right spot, with Lowe adding that, "C.J. was great about it." Miles insists he'll keep working hard, be prepared to play at all times and support his teammates when he's not in the game.
"Of course, I want to play. Everybody knows that. People look at me, you know that," Miles said. "We're winning games, guys are playing well. When they put me out there, I'm going to do my job. Today my job is just to work and stay ready, and that's what I'm going to do."
Millsap's minutes are down almost seven minutes a night — partially because of the compressed schedule, but also because of the increased productivity of up-and-coming big man Favors.
Millsap said he isn't bothered, adding that less time is "expected" because of the shortened slate.
"You realize you're not going to get the 30 or 40 minutes you think you want to get, so you just kind of make do," Millsap said. "I understand because I'm a team guy. I understand it's beneficial to our winning for my minutes to be limited throughout the course of this season. I just kind of understand that."
Don't underestimate how much that type of understanding helps Corbin make the tough choices.
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