Only once in his basketball career has Jazz rookie Corey Crowder sat on the bench as much as he does these days. During his freshman year at Kentucky Wesleyan, he broke his wrist and missed five games.
"Other than that," says Crowder wistfully, " I haven't missed too many."But Crowder's playing days seem far off. He now sits on the sidelines for a living, trying to stay alert while watching starting guard Jeff Malone working on his fadeaway.
Assistant Coach Gordon Chiesa refers to Crowder as "the understudy to the maestro."
Says Crowder, "The easiest thing in life is to let your guard down, in any situation."
There are, of course, ways to stay awake when you only play every few games. Crowder sits by Chiesa and asks questions as the game progresses. Then there's Crowder's penchant for cheerleading.
"That's great," says Chiesa. "It's the college mentality."
At times Crowder draws curious looks from the veteran players, who remind him it's an 82-game schedule. "Give it to 'em!" Crowder shouts when Malone goes on a streak of fadeaway shots.When the Mailman, Karl Malone, dunks in a player's face, Crowder will yell, "I hear ya, Mail! I hear ya.!"
Such rookie enthusiasm is part of the job. "Talk is all part of the NBA subculture," Chiesa adds. "These aren't people in business suits. This is where expression and interaction and talking slang are all part of the game."
Chiesa continues, "I know it's a long season, sure, but guess what? This isn't rocket science. It's an emotional game where talking is part of the business."
Cheering has its pitfalls, as well. Last week when Mark Eaton landed a crucial perimeter shot against the Clippers, Crowder leaped off the bench while his sweat pants fell down. Informed the move was widely displayed on Salt Lake television stations, Crower rolled his eyes. "Oh, that's good," he said.
Talking is about all Crowder's been able to do lately. He hasn't played in the last four games.
Crowder's high game in minutes was in a Dec. 4 rout of Washington, when he played 18 minutes. His scoring high is 10 points, registered against Miami on Nov. 19. The Jazz have played 58 games and Crowder has scored only 79 points - second-lowest on the club.
Providing there isn't a surprise rout by either team Tuesday night, when the Jazz play at Golden State, Crowder will sit the entire game for the fifth straight time.
But Chiesa says Crowder is progressing on schedule and has the ability to start in the NBA.
"I just try to practice hard and keep a positive attitude," says Crowder. "Other than that, my job is just to be ready."
GAME NOTES: The Jazz have now lost 18 road games. Last year they lost 23 road games all season. Utah has 11 road and 12 home games remaining. The Jazz have a 46-34 alltime record against the Warriors . . . Golden State Coach Don Nelson reportedly said this week that NBA officials discriminate against guard Sarunas Marciulonis, because he is Lithuanian . . . Jazz guard Delaney Rudd flew home from Phoenix Monday morning and won't play against the Warriors, due to a thigh injury . . . Golden State's Sarunas Marciulionis has missed three straight games due to a bruised right knee and thigh.