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Stephen Howard knows how quickly fortunes can change in a rookie league.

"You make a shot and you feel good, then you miss a shot and you think they (the coaches) aren't going to like you anymore," Howard said, after the Utah Jazz's 97-96 victory over Charlotte in the Rocky Mountain Revue.Howard is one of five Jazz veterans trying to hang on to a job, and so far his chances look good. After a three-point first-half performance in which he got frustrated over a couple of foul calls, he settled down and scored 15 in the second half, knocking down a couple of acrobatic shots around the hoop.

He hit eight of nine shots from the field, but he said it's still a little early for comparisons to Karl Malone.

"When I get those extra zeros on the check, then I'll feel like the Mailman," he said.

Two other veterans also were impressive Wednesday, along with the team's only draft choice. Walter Bond had his best game since opening night, drilling 7 of 11 shots, including three of five from the three-point line, for 26 points. And he hit a free throw that gave the Jazz their winning margin over a talented Charlotte/New Jersey/Indiana team.

"I was pressing a little bit the last couple of games," Bond said.

John Crotty, the team's leading scorer, hit on 7 of 13 shots for 21 points, with seven assists. And Jamie Watson, the rookie who seems to get better with each game, made five of seven shots for 12 points, including a crowd-pleasing one-hand follow slam of a missed hook shot by Luther Wright.

Wright, meanwhile, appears to be improving on defense while still struggling offensively. He blocked three shots, scored four points (2 of 7) and grabbed four rebounds, in 30 minutes.

The Jazz next play Phoenix on Thursday at 6 p.m. Other Thursday games are Sacramento vs. Denver, 2 p.m.; Charlotte vs. Chicago, 4 p.m.; and Seattle vs. Houston, 8 p.m.

CAMP NOTES: The Jazz sent rookie guard Billy McCaffrey home with a bruised shin; they've invited him back to veterans' camp, however. In 50 minutes, McCaffrey hit six of 15 shots (4.5 ppg), with six assists and 10 turnovers . . . Crotty is second in the league in scoring, averaging 19.0, and was sixth in field-goal percentage (58.3) before Wednesday's game . . . Bryon Russell is tied for the league lead in steals, at 3.0.

In other games Wednesday:

Chicago 99, Portland 84

Six Bulls players scored between 11 and 14 points as Chicago downed the Blazers. The Bulls outscored Portland in every period. Chicago was led by Kris Bruton, with 14, while Corie Blount, Jeff Sanders and Dickey Simpkins each added 12. For Portland, Tracy Murray totaled 18 and James Robinson 17.

Phoenix 101, Sacramento 91

Despite having just seven players, the Suns took care of the Kings by shooting 56.2 percent from the field. Two Suns' players - Corey Gaines and Bruce Bowen - have left to play in Europe, and two more - Wesley Person and Malcolm Mackey - are injured. Guard Elliott Perry picked up the slack, scoring 28 on 11 of 19 from the field, with 12 assists. Anthony Goldwire added 19, Aaron Swinson 18 and Randy White 16 for the Suns. For the Kings, Michael Smith totaled 18, Emmett Hall 16 and Mike Peplowski 15. Bobby Hurley hit three of 11 shots for six points, with six assists.

Seattle 97, Denver 93

Seattle fought off a second-half Denver rally. Seattle's Gerald Paddio led all scorers with 21. Ervin Johnson added 18 and Randolph Keys and James Blackwell each had 11. Former Jazzman Corey Crowder led Denver with 17. Kevin Salvadori had 14, Stephen Bardo 13 and Cliff Levingston and Rodney Rogers each 12. Seattle has a 2-3 record and Denver 3-3.