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Jazz lose to Suns as Sloan tinkers

Utah's Carlos Boozer (5) shoots against Phoenix Suns defenders, including Quentin Richardson (3) Wednesday.
Utah's Carlos Boozer (5) shoots against Phoenix Suns defenders, including Quentin Richardson (3) Wednesday.
Roy Dabner, Associated Press

PHOENIX — He's been tinkering and toying, trying this and that and any other idea that may cross his mind.

That is because Jerry Sloan has decisions to make, and plenty of them before the Jazz regular season starts Nov. 3 — now just four more exhibition games, and less than two weeks, away.

So what will he do?

We'll it's still just too early to tell.

"We'll see," Sloan said. "You know, you can talk about it all you want. But we'll see who has that ability to really want to compete."

Based on a 108-67 exhibition loss to Phoenix at Wednesday night at America West Arena here — the now 2-1 Jazz looked rather weary in the second game of a back-to-back set, and their third game in four nights — the search obviously remains ongoing.

And while nothing too much is to be read into early preseason lineups, there are some clues as to what Sloan may be thinking.

The issue of who starts at the point, of course, is a no-brainer: Returning starter Carlos Arroyo made his third straight start Wednesday, and with backup Raul Lopez still rehabbing to strength his weak right leg it's apparent Arroyo is line for big minutes when the Los Angeles Lakers roll into town early in November.

Shooting guard is a much-bigger battle.

Returning starter Gordan Giricek opened their last Sunday night against Seattle, sixth man Raja Bell made the start Tuesday night against New York and rookie Kirk Snyder — on the strength a game against the Knicks in which he earned high praise from Sloan — got the nod Wednesday in Phoenix.

Sloan has said Bell has been the best of the bunch so far in camp, and for now the Jazz coach might be inclined to start him against the Lakers. Bell dressed but did not play Wednesday, though, instead resting a groin strain that also had him out in Seattle.

There's still the possibility, as well, of going with two small forwards, Matt Harpring and All-Star Andrei Kirilenko, at the 2 and 3 spots.

If that does not happen, it would mean one of those two would be coming off the bench — and it could even be Kirilenko, though he has started all three games of the preseason so far at the 3.

Power forward and center would seem to be rather apparent, since the Jazz have a total of $118 million invested in offseason free-agent signees Carlos Boozer, who like Kirilenko had a team-high 12 points Wednesday, and Mehmet Okur.

Still, with Arroyo, his backup, Bell, Giricek, Harpring, Kirilenko, Boozer and Okur all obvious candidates for regular-rotations minutes, there are tough calls that must soon be made.

That's a nice problem to have — at least it becomes a real problem.

"If you don't buy into a team game, then it can become an issue," Bell said of the fact there are so many bodies and so few minutes.

"But if you just go out there and understand that everybody on the roster has a role to fill, and you're confident in your ability to fill your role," he added, "then things will be good for you."

That is something Sloan hopes everyone will buy into as he makes decisions that probably will come as much from the gut as anywhere else.

"I just have to try to play guys who want to play hard," Sloan said.

Throw in rookies Snyder and Kris Humphries as additional offseason pickups, and it seems the pool of candidates capable of answering that call is a tad deeper than in recent seasons past.

"I'll have a better choice to choose from, probably," Sloan said, "then what we have had."

Everyone in camp seems to know it, too, which gives that much more meaning to Utah's final four preseason games — one on Friday night at the Delta Center against Sacramento, then three on the road next week at Detroit, Philadelphia and New York.

"If everybody plays hard," Sloan said, "then we have to play less minutes, and try to divide them up as best we can."

In other NBA games Wednesday:

WIZARDS 92, PISTONS 83: At Grand Rapids, Mich., newcomer Antawn Jamison and five other players scored 11 points each to lead Washington over Detroit. Larry Hughes, Jarvis Hayes, Jared Jeffries, Laron Profit and Billy Thomas also scored 11 for the Wizards, and Juan Dixon contributed 10 points and five assists. Tayshaun Prince led the Pistons with 15 points, and Smush Parker and Carlos Delfino scored 13 apiece. Derrick Coleman had seven rebounds and Antonio McDyess had six for Detroit.

The defending NBA champion Pistons (1-3) have lost three straight preseason games.

The Wizards (2-2) opened a nine-point lead late in the third quarter on a layup by Dixon before Thomas' 3-pointer gave them an 80-68 advantage early in the fourth.

Detroit could get no closer than five the rest of the way — 85-80 following a dunk and layup by Parker.

Detroit's Darko Milicic, the NBA's second overall draft pick in 2003, fouled out early in the fourth quarter after playing just 10 minutes.

The Pistons played without Rasheed Wallace, who continued nursing a sore lower back, and Ben Wallace, who is recovering from appendix surgery. The Wizards were without Steve Blake (right ankle) and Kwame Brown (broken right foot).

Jamison was acquired in the offseason from Dallas in a trade that sent Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner to the Mavericks.

GRIZZLIES 95, HAWKS 86: At Atlanta, Bonzi Wells scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds in his first preseason game to lead Memphis over Atlanta. Wells sat out the Grizzlies' first three exhibition games because of a strained left hamstring. Former Hawks player Lorenzen Wright added 12 points for Memphis. Al Harrington led the Hawks with 22 points but fouled out with 6:56 remaining. Antoine Walker added 17 points and seven rebounds.

The Grizzlies started slowly, shooting only 33 percent from the field in the first quarter, but improved to 63 percent in the second quarter. They pulled away with an 11-0 run to close the third.

Atlanta held a 44-35 rebounding advantage but the Hawks committed 32 turnovers, leading to 25 points for the Grizzlies.

Josh Childress, the Hawks' top draft pick this year, started and played 17 minutes. He had five rebounds but didn't score.

Josh Smith, the Hawks' other first-round pick, had four points and five rebounds.

CAVALIERS 103, BOBCATS 77: At Dayton, Ohio, LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao had 16 points apiece, and Cleveland rolled over the expansion Carolina Bobcats. James, the magnet primarily responsible for the crowd of 7,589 at the University of Dayton Arena, played only the first and third quarters. He went 4-for-7 from the field and 8-for-10 from the line as the Cavs won for the third time in four tries. Ilgauskas also played 24 minutes. Varejao, a rookie from Brazil, got his points and 12 rebounds in just 22 minutes.

Jeff McGinnis and Ira Newble added 11 points each for Cleveland, and Drew Gooden had seven points and 14 boards. First-round draft pick Emeka Okafor and Jahidi White led the 0-4 Bobcats with 12 points each. Primoz Brezec and Tamar Slay added 10 apiece.

Varejo, who totaled 13 points in his first three games, had 11 in the second period Wednesday night as the Cavs began to pull away, including a pair of free throws that put his team ahead to stay at 30-28 with just under 7 minutes remaining.

Cleveland had a 46-39 advantage at halftime and was never challenged after opening the third quarter with an 18-4 run.

With Gooden and Varejo doing most of the damage, the Cavs had a 47-40 edge in rebounding and shot 59 percent overall, including a 68-percent clinic in the second half. The Bobcats struggled all night and shot only 38 percent.

Cavaliers guard Dajuan Wagner didn't make the trip because of a right ankle sprain.

RAPTORS 86, TREVISO 83: At Toronto, Chris Bosh had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead Toronto to a preseason win over Benetton Treviso. Ex-Jazzman Donyell Marshall added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Raptors. Massimo Bulleri scored 17 for Benetton, a team from Italy. Bulleri's jumper cut Toronto's lead to two with 2:50 remaining, but Marshall blocked Ramunas Siskaukas' shot before Bosh's 3-point play made it 86-81 with 1:18 left. Bulleri's two free throws cut it to three with 33 seconds remaining, but he turned the ball over by palming it with six seconds to play.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com