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Message to Jazz benchwarmers: work

Giricek is odd man out; Araujo drills till midnight

SHARE Message to Jazz benchwarmers: work

PHOENIX — The highlight-laden play of rookie Ronnie Brewer and surprise sophomore-season starter C.J. Miles were not the only reasons veteran shooting guard Gordan Giricek did not get up off the bench in the Jazz's season-opening win over Houston on Wednesday night at the Delta Center.

The decision to sit Giricek cuts deeper than that, coach Jerry Sloan suggested prior to practice and the club's departure Thursday for tonight's 2006-07 road opener at Phoenix.

"I don't think Giri has worked hard enough to play right now," Sloan said.

"I don't have anything against him personally," the Jazz coach added. "I just think it's important that he works. He's got a lot of talent, and I think he wastes it. Right now, he's wasting some of it."

Giricek — who played 37 games, including 36 starts, before succumbing to an Achilles tendon injury last season — declined to comment Thursday on Sloan's demand that he toil with more intensity.

Clearly, though, that's what the coach wants to see from the 29-year-old veteran from Croatia.

"All I can do is sit you down if you're not gonna work hard," Sloan said when asked if he had spoken with Giricek.

"I don't like to use the word 'doghouse,' because I don't think that's fair," he added. "He (Giricek) is not in anything, except he's got to work hard."

Perhaps a little less doggin' it in practice, then, would go a long way for Giricek, who after short stints with Memphis and Orlando joined the Jazz in a 2004 trade for 2000 first-round draft choice DeShawn Stevenson — and was rewarded promptly with a four-year, $16 million contract that runs through the end of the 2007-08 season.

"We run the sidelines ... and Jarron Collins beats him," Sloan said, referencing a certain Jazz center/power forward who is not exactly the NBA's fastest big man. "I don't think that's an indication of wanting to work hard."

Sloan's evident frustration with the former Croatian National Team member was contrasted starkly by the impression apparently made on him this week by the Jazz's other 12-man active roster member who dressed but did not play against the Rockets, ex-BYU center Rafael Araujo.

The big Brazilian was lauded for leaving the Delta Center on Wednesday night and making a beeline for the team's practice facility, where he spent much of the rest of the night working out with a family member.

"That's gonna make me give him every opportunity, if it comes up," Sloan said of Araujo, who was acquired in a summer trade with Toronto for fellow 2004 first-round draft pick Kris Humphries. "I expect him (Araujo) to work — but I didn't know he was going to do that. But I appreciate that, if a guy has that much concern about wanting to work, wanting to make an effort. That's what's good for the team."

Araujo — who also spent 20 minutes peddling a stationary bike at the Delta Center after Wednesday's game, as mandated by the team because he did not play at least 20 minutes — shrugged off the extra self-imposed practice.

"I've got to keep working," he said. "You never know when you're going to get called, so you have to be prepared when Coach Sloan calls on you.

"Me and my cousin, we come over here and did all the drills," he added of a session that lasted until nearly midnight. "Shooting, post moves, (working on) position to where I want to get the ball if I get in a game. I went pretty hard ... just for myself, just to keep me better."

It was the sort of effort Sloan wishes more players would put forth, including — as he hinted on this occasion — Giricek.

"Some guys say, 'Well, I just won't have to work hard. I'll just wait until tomorrow and play,"' Sloan said. "That's what this league is filled up with. That kind of attitude."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com