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Jazz on road during Games

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They start the season — with an Oct. 30 home game against the Milwaukee Bucks — known as the Utah Jazz.

But in February you may as well call them the Utah Ghosts.

Displaced from the Delta Center by the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Jazz hit the road for nine straight games from Feb. 4-26.

Sounds horrible, huh? Actually, the Jazz think it's not nearly as bad as it could be.

"The NBA did what we asked them to do, or to try to do, and that was put us on an extended road trip but be able to bring us home at some point in time for a little while, which they did," said Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's vice president of basketball operations, after the league on Thursday released 82-game schedules for all of its teams.

Following a Feb. 2 second game against Portland, the Jazz will be away from their home floor — site of the Olympic figure skating and short-track speedskating competitions — until a Feb. 28 meeting with Memphis.

In between, the Jazz will visit Houston, Memphis, Indiana, Philadelphia, Toronto, New York, Cleveland and Denver and Sacramento.

What's good for the Jazz, though, is that they will be able to break up that long stretch by taking three different trips.

The Memphis game is on Feb. 5, and after it, the Jazz will be able to return home during the league's annual break for NBA All-Star Weekend, which is in Philadelphia.

The Jazz's next game is Feb. 12 at Indiana. That game kicks off a stretch of six games in nine nights, ending Feb. 20 at Denver.

After that lengthy adventure, the Jazz head out only once more, for a Feb. 26 game at Sacramento, Calif., before finally returning to Salt Lake City for a five-game homestand.

The downside to the league's generosity in February — a month that could have included many more road games — is that the Jazz will play 20 sets of back-to-back games, a slightly higher number than normal.

Four of those back-to-back sets come in December, a month which includes a five-game pre-Christmas trip to San Antonio, Miami, Orlando, Boston, Orlando and New Jersey.

The Jazz have one other five-game trip, a mid-March journey to Houston, Memphis, Charlotte, Detroit and Minnesota. They play two games that will be nationally televised by NBC, both at home (Jan. 26 versus Sacramento, and Feb. 2 versus Portland).

One quirk in Utah's schedule: Their first trip of the regular season has them at Seattle on Nov. 3, visiting the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 4, then back to the Pacific Northwest for a Nov. 6 game at Portland.

But the tradeoffs, according to O'Connor, are well worth the kind considerations in February that the Jazz received from the league.

"They've treated us very, very fairly," he said.


E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com