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Stockton amazes everyone but himself

Cheeks praises Jazz guard's consistency

Coaches and teammates who see him every day are not the only ones blown away by John Stockton.

On the night birthday-boy Stockton blew out candle No. 41, Portland Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks offered effusive praise for the NBA's all-time assists and steals leader.

"His game hasn't changed much since he came into the league," Cheeks said after watching Stockton dish 10 assists in Utah's 94-85 win over Portland.

"The thing that is so good about him is the consistency in the way he plays," added Cheeks, who is only 46 himself but has been retired as a player since 1993. "You couldn't tell if he was 25 or 30 tonight — or throughout the year.

"You're not going to find another John Stockton. He does everything the right way."

Meanwhile, Stockton, as his nature, downplayed the whole birthday thing as much as he could.

"I feel about the same age as I did yesterday," he said.

RODENT HOOPS: Jazz coach Jerry Sloan wasn't real thrilled with what he saw from his fourth-quarter subs, who played only after Utah's win was well in hand.

"It looked like we were playing 'ratball,' " Sloan said after watching a 20-point lead dwindle to nine in the final two minutes and 46 seconds.

That span included missed 3-point attempts from Andrei Kirilenko and DeShawn Stevenson, a failed fadeaway jumper from Stevenson, and bad-pass turnovers by both Kirilenko and Carlos Arroyo.

"We try to teach guys how to execute — and that's about as poor of execution as you can do to finish the ball game," Sloan said.

"You don't take (veterans') places whenever you get to be a little bit older playing basketball like we played to finish the ball game," he added. "And until our guys learn that, then it's tough to get minutes playing in this league."

MISC.: Stockton's first basket of the night, a 19-foot jumper in the first quarter, was the 7,000th field goal of his career . . . Utah backup center Tony Massenburg played only six minutes, but Sloan said that was only because starter Greg Ostertag (nine points, nine rebounds) was playing so well, especially when the Jazz utilized their zone defense . . . A reminder: The Jazz's Friday-night home game against Milwaukee will not be televised locally, as previously scheduled.


E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com