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News » Jazz lineup is coming into focus

Jazz lineup is coming into focus

Jazz lineup is coming into focus With the Jazz's preseason done at 6-2, their best since going 7-1 in 2003, and an 82-game 2009-10 NBA regular season scheduled to get under way Wednesday night at Denver, much is coming into focus. Deron Williams will lead the way as expected, and perhaps Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap can actually coexist. Defense remains a concern, as does outside shooting, bench depth and a dearth of big bigs. Beyond that, though, they're hardly the picture of perfection, especially when it comes to the health department ?

which makes pinpointing a potential regular rotation a fuzzy proposition at best. With that established, five questions that loomed when training camp opened late last month at least have more answers than not: 1. The starting lineup With incumbent starting small forward C.J. Miles recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured thumb ligament in his shooting hand and shooting guard Kyle Korver scheduled for arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday, coach Jerry Sloan seems inclined to go with an opening lineup at Williams at the point, returnee Ronnie Brewer at shooting guard (if he can shake the back spasms that kept him out of Friday's preseason-ending win at Sacramento), former starter Andrei Kirilenko off the bench and back at small forward, two-time NBA All-Star Boozer at power forward and Mehmet Okur at center as usual. That means backup power forward Millsap would come off the bench, though Sloan plans to use him everywhere from small forward to center. "We've got to keep him on the floor as much as possible," Sloan said of Millsap, who heads into the first season of a new four-year, $32 million contract. 2. Playing time Williams logged 36.8 minutes per game last season, and there is no reason to think that number won't inch closer to 40 ? especially if he plays some at shooting guard. "We'll probably do that some ... I guess," Sloan said. Okur's 33.5 minutes per game from last season should hold fairly steady, as should Boozer's 32.3 and Brewer's 32.2. Millsap's 30.1 may rise, as could Kirilenko's 27.3. "We know when we're at full strength we've got a lot of guys that can play," Boozer said. "And the rest of it, we've just got to be ready. But it's up to Coach (Sloan). Coach will play guys, and if we have to play 40, we'll play 'em. If we have guys that rotate and we play 35, that's what we'll do." 3. The backups Rookie Eric Maynor seems to have won a battle with combo guard Ronnie Price for backup minutes behind Williams, though those will be few and far between. Missing five of eight preseason games with injuries, including the last four with a balky hamstring, hasn't helped Price's bid for a bigger role ? though he could start at shooting guard if Brewer, Miles and Korver all are out. Kyrylo Fesenko will play behind Okur at center, but only when matchups ? in other words, against another true big ? allow. Beyond that, the injury situation has depleted the Jazz's depth. Starting Kirilenko weakens an already thin bench, though Sloan ? apparently inclined to run his horses ? suggested he's not too worried about that. "Well, a lot depends on how we hold up," he said. "I think we'll be fine. "You know, Ronnie Brewer can play 3 and Andrei can play 4 (power forward). Those guys are pretty flexible. And Deron (Williams) can play 2. "You know, we can do some of that stuff that we didn't do (last season). And Ronnie Price can play a little 1 (point) and 2." 4. The free agents Second-round draft choice Goran Suton was waived last week along with four free agents, including journeyman forward Ronald Dupree, who lost a training-camp battle with undrafted rookie swingman Wesley Matthews. Matthews, a Marquette product, started four preseason games and expects to be around for Wednesday's opener ? but the Jazz haven't committed to how long beyond that he can expect to last. Nabbing a veteran off the waiver wire hasn't been ruled out. "We don't know if we're gonna pick anybody else up ? but that might be the easiest thing to do," Williams said. 5. Health matters The Jazz closed the preseason with just nine healthy players, and unless someone new is acquired, they won't have a full 12 for Wednesday. Williams hopes it's not all the precursor to a repeat of last season, when the Jazz's lineup was injury-ravaged. In fact, he's already sick of the subject. "I'm going to stop talking about injuries," Williams said. Questions, though, are bound to keep coming. "We never really got into a rhythm (last season) because guys were in and out of the lineup," Williams said. "So hopefully guys can be ready to step in when their name's called, regardless of what position they're at or how many minutes they're playing. We've just to have some consistency." e-mail:

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Added: October 26, 2009


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