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Miskiri aiming to pad his lone NBA stat

The sum of Jazz hopeful Jason Miskiri's NBA career amounts to a single digit.

It's the grand total of NBA regular-season games in which Miskiri has played since leaving George Mason University in 1999.

It's the loneliest number.

It's one.

That's right: The Guyana-born guard is in the record books, thanks to a solitary game.

He actually stuck on the Charlotte Hornets' active roster for about a month back in that first fall following college but took the floor just once.

The date was Nov. 2, 1999. Charlotte beat Orlando 100-86 in its season-opener, at home. Miskiri's line was largely nondescript.

Three minutes played. Two fouls committed. One assist dished. Zero points scored.

"It seems like a long time ago," Miskiri said.

Perhaps that is because it was.

Since then, the Hornets have moved to New Orleans, Charlotte was awarded a new NBA franchise nicknamed the Bobcats and Miskiri's professional life has been a big bowl of alphabet soup: CBA. IBL. ABA. NBDL.

In Scrabble, those tiles are worth 24 points.

In the game that is Miskiri's real world, it adds up to a bunch of working man's paychecks and not many nights living the NBA high-life.

From LaCrosse to Richmond, North Charleston to New Mexico, Miskiri has played in more minor-league locales than Dennis Rodman post-Michael Jordan.

Yet he's still at it, in training camp with the Jazz, hoping to turn one into two and three and four and more but prepared for the possibility his line in history will remain the same.

"When it's all over," said Miskiri, now 29, "that's when you say, 'Hey.'"

Until then, "I'm gonna still push and push. I'm never gonna give up. I'm gonna keep going."

No matter what obstacles must be overcome.

"It's tough," said Miskiri, who has potential opportunities overseas if things do not work out here. "But it's always been my dream to play on this level, and I feel that I can. If I didn't, then I wouldn't be here.

"I think that a lot of other people feel that I can, too," he added. "It's just timing, and being in the right situation."

The situation in Utah is good but not necessarily great for Miskiri.

The Jazz brought to camp four guards who can play the point and fully intend to keep three on their 13- or 14-man roster.

Carlos Arroyo, the starter, just signed a four-year, $16 million contract. Raul Lopez, the backup, is in the third season of his rookie deal. Keith McLeod, the projected No. 3 point, has $250,000 of his $750,000 pact for this season guaranteed.

Miskiri, who didn't know McLeod was getting definite dollars when he first came to camp, has no assurances whatsoever.

"He's fortunate enough to get guaranteed money," Miskiri said of his chief camp competition, McLeod. "(But) that has nothing to do with on-the-court, you know what I'm saying?

"A lot of teams, when there's guaranteed money, it's tough for (another) guy to make a team," added Miskiri, who also was in Boston's 2000 camp. "But coach (Jerry) Sloan seems like a very fair guy. He wants to win. (Contract matters don't) matter to him, so I feel that if I go out here and perform well, then I have a great shot."

The target grew a bit more shooter-friendly earlier this week, when the Jazz decided to withdraw Lopez from typical training-camp regimen so he could focus on strengthening weakened muscles surrounding his twice surgically rebuilt right knee.

The timetable for Lopez's shutdown is uncertain, but he could be out anywhere from two to four or more weeks.

Miskiri and McLeod, in the meantime, have gone from fighting for the No. 3 job to trying to prove they are capable of filling in as No. 2 behind Arroyo.

"As a teammate, you don't want to see no one hurt," Miskiri said, "but I'm just taking this opportunity and making the most out of it.

"I have to take advantage of it," he added. "It's as simple as that."

And why not? Others before him, after all, have made more of similarly so little.

Remember Ben Handlogten? He debuted with the Jazz as a 30-year-old NBA rookie last season.

Remember Paul Grant? He played just six NBA games in the 1998-99 season, and no more until the Jazz summoned him away from pickup ball in the Boston area for a five-game stint last January.

"You look at a lot of guys that pay their dues, and are fulfilling their dreams," Miskiri said. "You have to look at their situations, and you feel there is hope."

Hope, that is, for more than one before all is said and done.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com