CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Tonight, the Denver Nuggets play a preseason game vs. Phoenix at Syracuse University.

Coincidentally, Wednesday in Denver marked the first time since a chance meeting at the 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas that Jazz point guard Gerry McNamara was reunited his former Syracuse teammate, Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony.

The two together led Syracuse to its 2003 NCAA national championship, an accomplishment that — no matter how infrequent their get-togethers — will forever bond the two.

"It's just good to see him in the NBA," Anthony told the Denver Post. "I know he's been in the D-League, overseas, so to actually see him in an NBA jersey feels good. I know what he did up there (at Syracuse), and the work he put in off the court and on the court, especially in that stretch run."

Responded McNamara, who never has played a regular-season NBA game: "I appreciate it. He's definitely one of the best players in the NBA, and to hear it from him, and to have played with him is pretty special. Like he said ... I'm just trying to keep banging it out, and see what happens."

McNamara returned from a bout with the stomach flu and logged 15 minutes in Wednesday's overtime exhibition loss to the Nuggets, but his days with the Jazz likely are numbered.

He and fellow free agents Gabe Muoneke and Kevin Lyde made a three-game trip that also includes tonight's visit to Chicago, but all are expected to eventually be waived — in part because the Jazz already have 15 guaranteed contracts.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said Jazz staff all really like McNamara. But with three points already on the roster there's just no extra room.

"We've felt pretty good about what he's been able to show," Sloan said.

DEFENSE, DEFENSE: Sloan has harped on it since training camp opened late last month, yet was displeased by what he saw from it Wednesday.

"It" would be the Jazz's defense.

"The bottom line is we're not very good defensively," Sloan said after watching starting center Mehmet Okur commit three quick fouls on a night the Nuggets — sans injured Allen Iverson — shot a whopping 57 free throws.

"That's the thing that's frightening to us: The way they started out and beat us off the dribble right off the beginning of the ballgame," he added. "If we can't stay in front of people any better than that, we're going to have a long season."

UH HUH: So just what did veteran forward and Denver roster hopeful Ruben Patterson say to prompt the technical foul he drew during a timeout late in regulation play Wednesday?

"That ref (Marat Kogut) called four straight fouls on me," Patterson, who was fouled out of the game at the time of the tech, told the Rocky Mountain News. "I said something like, 'He's a rookie ref,' and I pointed."

DECISION TIME: The Jazz still haven't decided whether or not they'll pick up the third-year option on 2007 first-round draft choice Morris Almond's rookie contract, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said in Denver.

The team faces an end-of-the-month deadline for making the call.

Almond played briefly with Jazz starters in Wednesday's second half, and Sloan afterward had nothing especially negative to say about his minutes.

INJURY UPDATE: Reserve point guard Brevin Knight (sprained thumb) and reserve guard Ronnie Price (lower-leg bruise) both practiced Thursday. Price remains a game-time decision, and Knight has been upgraded from doubtful to the same.

Backup center Jarron Collins (triceps tendinitis) didn't practice Thursday, and remains doubtful.

Backup power forward Paul Millsap played with protective glasses Wednesday, the result of a corneal abrasion sustained during practice Tuesday.

Veteran forward Matt Harpring (ankle surgery) is not on the trip.