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News » Small forward starting spot up for grabs

Small forward starting spot up for grabs

Small forward starting spot up for grabs He started at small forward for all 72 regular-season games in which he played last season. But with the index finger on his left, shooting hand dislocated in early April and still not healed when NBA postseason play for the Jazz got under way later that same month, C.J. Miles mostly sat. Backup shooting guard Kyle Korver opened in his place for the first two games of Utah's first-round playoff series with the eventual league-champion Los Angeles Lakers, and things didn't go so well. The Jazz lost both, quickly falling behind in a best-of-seven series the Lakers wound up taking 4-1. Fellow forward Andrei Kirilenko ?

who spent most of his eighth season in Utah as a backup, if for no other reason than coach Jerry Sloan wanted experience and a spark coming off his thin bench ? started the final three. So what will Sloan do in that regard this season, especially in light of the fact that the Jazz's bench is largely unchanged? Return the job to Miles, whose 22.5 minutes per game in 2008-09 actually were nearly five fewer than backup Kirilenko averaged? Give sharpshooter Korver a longer look as a starter? Or stick with one-time NBA All-Star Kirilenko, essentially a full-time starter for five years prior to last season? Before all three coincidentally wound up getting hurt in training camp on Sunday morning, those very questions ? and perhaps others not yet made public ? were being bandied about by Jazz brass. The injuries ? a strained left quadriceps muscle for Kirilenko, a strained left hip flexor for Miles and an inflamed left knee for Korver, according to a team spokesman ? kept the trio from taking part in Sunday night's second session of two-a-days. Korver's case may be the most serious of the bunch, as on Sunday he underwent an MRI exam, results of which were not immediately made known. Miles, according to a tweet on his personal Twitter account, also hurt his groin. It's uncertain if any or all will take part in camp sessions scheduled for this morning and tonight. Before the injuries were sustained, Sloan had not yet made up his mind regarding any of the possibilities. "We talked about that a little bit," the Jazz coach said over the weekend, "but I couldn't say today." Whatever the case turns out to be, Miles is prepared to accept the decision. That much was relayed in a pre-training camp meeting between Miles and Sloan, who evidently let the lefty know he trusts him as a rotation regular ? but also hinted a boot to the bench may be in store for the 22-year-old. "He said it's good to have somebody coming off the bench who knows what they're doing, so, I mean, it doesn't bother me either way," said Miles, who despite his youth already has four NBA seasons on his resume. "If I do what I'm supposed to do, I'm gonna play. The minutes will be there," added Miles, who ? like the bulked-up Kirilenko, though not quite to the same degree ? spent the offseason adding upper-body muscle and strength to his once lanky frame. "So I don't think it really matters if you start or you're sixth man or seventh man." Curiously enough, the call may come down to how starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer is shooting. Brewer struggled to hit from the outside with any degree of consistency last season, so much so the Lakers gave him zero respect. "When you're on the floor and they go off and don't guard you, and they help inside and take a lot of that stuff away, that makes it a lot more difficult," Sloan said. "Because you're playing 4-on-5." Sensing what might be coming at the time, and combined with Miles' finger injury, therein lies the impetus behind the decision to first try Korver as a starter in the postseason. "They weren't guarding Ronnie Brewer ... Kobe Bryant never got out from under the basket on him," said Sloan, whose Jazz continue with two-a-days today and play their first preseason game Thursday night vs. Denver at EnergySolutions Arena. "That's why we changed. I was looking for somebody to be able to make some shots." Sloan doesn't want to go into this season with too many non-shooters in his opening lineup, but if Brewer goes through the preseason proving he's developed some consistency with his jumper perhaps Kirilenko could return to the starting five. If not the call could come down to who between Miles and Korver not only is a legit outside threat but also does what must be done on the other end. "Maybe guys get better," Sloan said. "Maybe they say 'I'm taking this thing over and I'll make shots, (and) defend like crazy.' " e-mail:

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Added: September 29, 2009


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