Playing behind John Stockton isn't exactly the easiest job in the world. First, you learn how to wait like you've never waited before. You wait like you're waiting for the doctor, who just went out the back door for 18 holes of golf. You wait like Jerry Hall waited for Mick Jagger.
After all the waiting, then you get the call to go in the game and, on a moment's notice, you are expected to run the offense, take care of the ball, stick the jumper and play stupendous defense. All without precipitating a letdown.So goes the job of Jazz guard Delaney Rudd, the answer to a someday trivia question: Who backed up NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton?
If Rudd does become a trivia answer, what he is doing these lately is anything but. With the Jazz on a six-game winning streak - and facing Indiana tonight at 7:30 in the Salt Palace - nobody wants to break the rhythm. The Jazz need a bench in order to be a serious contender, and that includes Rudd, who spends an average of 11 minutes a night on the court, giving All-Star guard Stockton needed rest.
Rudd's start on the 1990-91 season wasn't impressive. He broke his nose in training camp, missing 10 days, and spent the exhibition season wearing a brace. When he did come back, he wasn't playing well. In his first regular-season game, Rudd went 0-for-4.In the second, 1-for-4. Through the Jazz's first 12 games he was shooting only 36 percent.
Prior to the Nov. 28 game with Houston, Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan had a private talk with Rudd.
"Basically," said Rudd, "it was about having enthusiasm. The coach felt I needed enthusiasm. A lot of it was due to my missing the exhibition season because it put me behind. I wasn't able to do stuff right off, and I got frustrated."
Said Sloan, "I probably got on him a little bit. He struggled a little, and we had a chance to talk about it. Since then, he seems to have relaxed and played like we expected him to play."
The night of the "discussion," Rudd went 4-for-4 and scored 11 points against the Rockets. Although he began to tail off again, going 2-13 over the following three games, he didn't commit any turnovers. The last five games he's been impressive, averaging 6.4 points per outing. Against Golden State, Rudd scored 10 points in just 12 minutes. Against Detroit, he netted three crucial baskets, and against the Lakers he popped two consecutive jumpers that played a large part in keeping the Lakers at a safe distance.
Since having his talk with Sloan, Rudd has made half his field goal attempts and averaged five points a game.
"The toughest job in basketball is the guy coming off the bench and playing," said Sloan. "It takes tremendous concentration to sit there and come out and suddenly play."
As a result of his reserve status, Rudd says teams don't play him too closely, challenging him to make the open jumper. Against Golden State he was 5-for-7. Thursday against the Nuggets he made four of five shots.
"They think the coach doesn't want you to shoot," said Rudd. "They know what their subs do when they're in the game."
Meanwhile, Sloan's subs will do something positive, or he'll be calling them in for a talk.
Pregame notes: The Jazz have won 11 of 12 games and nine in a row at the Salt Palace . . . Thurl Bailey is 13-19 from the field in the last two games and has scored in double figures in 12 of the last 14 games . . . Karl Malone has scored 189 points in the last six games (31.5) . . . John Stockton moved into the league lead in assists this week (13.9), surpassing the Lakers' Magic Johnson . . . The Pacers' Reggie Miller has a bruised left patella but is expected to play . . . Detlef Schrempf has a bruised knee but is expected to play, while Michael Williams (sprained ankle) is listed as probable.