LOS ANGELES -- Making his first NBA start, Scott Padgett was understandably jittery.
What Jazz coach Jerry Sloan didn't understand, though, was why Padgett shot as much as he did in the Jazz's 94-79 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night at the Staples Center."It looked like he wanted to go out and shoot every time he touched the ball," Sloan said after Padgett went 2-for-9 from the field in 18 minutes of play. "That's not what we wanted."
Padgett, though, had an explanation -- and a seemingly plausible one at that: He was so open it was too good to believe, even if it did cause him to get away from what Sloan really wanted.
"I know why I was open -- it was because everyone was concentrating on Karl (Malone)," Padgett said. "I mean, I haven't been that open since high school."
Despite the trigger-happiness, Sloan indicated he will probably stick with Padgett in the starting lineup for Tuesday's game against Portland at the Delta Center. He started the first-round draft choice from the University of Kentucky over veteran Adam Keefe, saying, "it's just an opportunity for Scott to play a little bit."
And that's fine with Padgett, who is just happy to be playing. "For me, right now, if I get in the game, I don't care when it is," he said.
As for Keefe, he struggled in the Jazz's first three games and came into Monday night's shooting just 2-of-7 from the field. Keefe has never been known as a super outside shooter, so that's not a major concern.
What is a major concern is the fact that he also struggled on defense, especially against eventual 21-point scorer Ruben Patterson in a 99-94 Jazz loss at Seattle on Saturday. After Patterson beat him badly on the baseline early on, Keefe was called to the bench and wound up in a short, but somewhat animated, discussion with Sloan before he took a seat.
Sloan, though, tried to deflect attention from the decision to start Padgett, saying it was no reflection on Keefe, and that it would be an unwarranted "slap in the face" to Keefe to suggest it was.
"Adam's given us a lot," said Sloan, who used Keefe only for the final one minute and eight seconds Monday. "I can't look at it that way."
BIG BARN: Even before they started stretching prior to Monday morning's shootaround, the necks of several Jazz players got a good workout as they looked up at, and all around, the cavernous Staples Center.
Replete with not one, not two, but three levels holding 160 luxury suites, plus a lower level of regular seats priced as high as $1,100 per game courtside and an upper deck of cheap(er) seats for the common folk, the $375 million, state-of-the-art facility in downtown Los Angeles is new home to three major professional sports franchises: the NBA's L.A. Clippers, whom the Jazz played Monday night, and L.A. Lakers, and the NHL's L.A. Kings.
No doubt, though, which among those three is the favored son: Primary color of the seats is Lakers purple, which should help the Jazz feel right at home. Even the L.A. teams, though, still haven't grown accustomed to their new digs, which is so big that it is already drawing some criticism for its quiet, almost morgue-like atmosphere
"Let's put it this way: The fans are still working out the acoustics," Rick Fox told the Los Angeles Times.
"I missed a couple of layups, because when I got the ball and looked up, I didn't know where I was at," Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal said of his first impression. "It is a big building that I have to get used to."
Keefe thinks it may be harder for players like Shaq to do that than it will be for the visitors.
"I'm sure it's tougher for the Lakers," he said, "because they're probably used to the (smaller, more-intimate) Forum, where they can look up and see a particular aisle, or a jersey hanging up there on the wall, and tell where they are."
"It is a big place," Keefe added, "but I think guys will adjust to it."
Six times this season, by the way, the Clippers are involved in doubleheaders at the Staples Center -- once with the Lakers, and five instances in which the Kings play an NHL game there, either earlier in the day, or later at night.
AH, TO BE YOUNG: With an average age of 25 years, 65 days, the Clippers opened the season as the youngest team in the NBA. Its oldest player is Eric Murdock, just 31. By comparison, the Jazz are fourth-oldest in the league and have four players (Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek and Olden Polynice) older than Murdock. Oldest team in the NBA? San Antonio, at 30 years, 262 days.
MISC.: Jazz center Greg Ostertag, who did not practice Sunday and left Saturday's game at Seattle early due to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, came off the bench to score 6 points and pull down eight rebounds against the Clippers. Afterward, Ostertag, who played with a black brace on the joint, said his knee felt fine. . . . Clippers starting guard Eric Murdock did not play due to a sore right knee. Troy Hudson started in his place and played 35 minutes, scoring 5 points.