Anybody looking for controversy in the Jazz locker room would have a tough time in this corner. Darrell Griffith: only concerned about winning. Bobby Hansen: happy to be playing again. Jim Farmer: just doing his job.
What's with these guys?"There's no animosity or anything; they understand," says Coach Jerry Sloan, whose team plays Portland tonight (6:05) in the Salt Palace. "Sometimes that can happen, where you have friction."
Yeah, what happened to the good old days, when Griffith, Hansen and Kelly Tripucka were all unhappy? These days, three locker neighbors are sharing the Jazz's off-guard minutes and nobody's complaining.
Hansen even wanted know why the subject was being raised.
Well, the Jazz's best off-guard play last season came only after Griffith and Tripucka were injured and Hansen was on his own in the last two months and the playoffs. This year, Sloan is trying to keep everybody happy and get enough production from the team's only position that lacks an All-Star level player.
"We're getting about what we expected from those guys," said Sloan.
They've all gone through several stages. Griffith was outstanding in November, slumped through December and January and has gradually found his shot again, raising his field-goal shooting close to 45 percent. Hansen missed 36 of the first 45 games with injuries and has really found himself in the last five games, averaging 14 points. Farmer, a Dallas refugee, played the most basketball of his two-year career in January, but has appeared briefly since Hansen's return.
Besides not forgetting Farmer, Sloan is dividing time almost evenly for Griffith and Hansen - except when Hansen played considerably at forward against Golden State, they've played more than 30 minutes only once each in the last six weeks.
"I'd rather mix and match," Sloan noted.
You can set your watch by Hansen's entry into the game - four minutes left in the first quarter - but after that, Sloan has to decide who should play more each game. "You know you're going to play, and it's pretty much up to you how you play," said Hansen.
"It depends on the flow of the game," said Griffith. "You just have to go out and concentrate more."
Caught between Griffith and Hansen, Farmer seemed buried until appearing in the last three games as a reward for his practice play, according to Sloan. Having joined the team on a 10-day contract in early January when Hansen was sidelined with a fractured cheekbone, Farmer quickly discovered he liked playing.
"It's been tough on me," he said. "You get used to playing, and then go back to not playing; but (Sloan) is letting me know he still has confidence in my game."
Said Sloan, who used Farmer briefly at point guard last week, "He's been very responsive . . . it would be easier for him to pout. He deserves to get time, when the opportunity presents itself. I want to try to keep him alive as much as possible."