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Humphries finding his way

Getting around town?

That is no problem, not even for a 19-year-old from Minnesota who's been here for only a few weeks now.

"The way the streets work," Kris Humphries said, "is pretty easy."

If you can count, you can get there.

Now if only Jerry Sloan's Jazz offense were so simple.

With just one season of college ball under his belt, Humphries — the 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year at the University of Minnesota — is learning the hard way how life in the NBA can be just a little more complicated than finding one's way to 7th East and 21st South.

There is more attention to detail. More sets to learn. More complexities within each set.

Perhaps more importantly than all that, though, there is also the necessity to understand the kid who was 'the man' in college is now a mere boy among real men.

"For the most part, he's picked his position up pretty well," Sloan, his team now in its ninth day of training camp, said of the 6-foot-9 forward. "But there's a lot of little things to basketball.

"It's not just all 'me,' you know. You've got to understand: 'I've got to pass the ball in this situation, I can't just look for my own shot; I've got to run the floor defensively, and not wait for my man.' Little things like that, if he's gonna become a player in this league, he'll have to learn how to do.

"But," Sloan added, "he's only a young man. He's got some equipment to work with, if he works at it."

It wasn't long ago that Humphries was starring at Hopkins High in Minneapolis.

And while it has to help that he is not trying to make the jump straight from preps to the pros — "One (season of college ball)," Humphries said, "is better than none" — the learning curve from NCAA freshman to NBA rookie still is quite severe.

"It helps some, there's no question. But that's not very much," Sloan said. "He was just given the ball (at Minnesota), and the team was his."

Not so in Utah, where the Jazz are paying power forward Carlos Boozer $68 million over six seasons to play the very same position Humphries had to himself with the Golden Gophers.

"It's not that case here," Sloan said. "The team is not 'his' when he got here.

"He's gonna have to learn how to play basketball with other people," the Jazz coach added, "and I think if he does that there will be opportunities for him."

Humphries understands, and the kid whose pop was an offensive lineman at the University of Minnesota seems quite willing to absorb what Sloan and the rest of the Jazz coaching staff tell him.

"Obviously I have a long ways to go," Humphries said, "because there's so much more to learn.

"I still have a ways to go," he added, "but I think I'm on my way."

It does not help, however, that Humphries missed most of the Jazz's Rocky Mountain Revue schedule with a sprained ankle.

While fellow first-round draft choice Kirk Snyder was busy playing seven summer-league games, sorting out some of the confusion that inevitably comes with learning a new and much-more complex system, Humphries sat and watched all but two in the Revue.

"That hurt him a great deal," Sloan said, "because with not being able to play in those games he doesn't understand a lot of the things that come up in games."

Now, Humphries is crash-coursing precisely where he needs to be when.

"It comes at you quick, furious and fast," Sloan said, "and you've got to be able to adjust to that on the run."

Which is a whole lot tougher than counting blocks east and south.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com