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Mourning Miles finds solace in win

Jazz guard Deron Williams drives past the defense of Detroit's Chauncey Billups in Utah's win.
Jazz guard Deron Williams drives past the defense of Detroit's Chauncey Billups in Utah's win.
Paul Sancya, Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — With an explosive first step that he used to blow past Detroit's Jason Maxiell and soar for a convincing late-game dunk, C.J. Miles put his best foot forward Friday night in the Jazz's still-ongoing search for a starting shooting guard.

He did so, however, with a heavy heart.

Miles lost his maternal grandmother earlier this week, and after scoring seven points in Utah's 100-85 preseason win over the Pistons he did not accompany the team to Milwaukee for tonight's exhibition visit with the Bucks.

Instead, Miles — who made just 2-of-7 from the field Friday, and has been slowed recently by what he said was "tendinitis" — will catch a commercial flight early this morning to Texas to attend Juanita Wimbley's funeral.

"I took the whole day just to get my mind right," said Miles, who was particularly close with Wimbley.

"She practically helped raise me," he added. "She was always there."

Upset he wasn't with family the past few days, Miles — who joined the Jazz straight out of his Dallas high school in 2005 — sought solace on the floor.

"It's been difficult, because when you get a little downtime, that's when you start to think," said Miles, who plans to rejoin the team for Monday's visit to Phoenix. "When I'm in the gym is when it's kind of away, because I can get my mind off it."

Miles felt obligated to remain with the Jazz as long as he could partly because he's embroiled in quite a battle with leading contender Ronnie Brewer, rookie Morris Almond and veteran Gordan Giricek for a starting job left vacant when Derek Fisher left for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Almond shot only 3-for-7 Friday, but hardly looked out of place.

Giricek, who hit only 1-of-6 in Wednesday's preseason-opening loss to Milwaukee, rebounded with a nine-point, 4-for-7 effort against the Pistons.

He opened the second half in place of Brewer, who made a second straight start, and afterward drew praise from coach Jerry Sloan for doing "a very good job in the second half of trying to help us run our offense and making some shots."

Giricek, who didn't play at all in the opening half, made 4-of-5 during an impressive third quarter in which the Jazz also got 12 points and 4-of-6 shooting from point guard Deron Williams.

Utah took the period 35-18, went into the fourth quarter up 69-64 and never did trail the rest of the way.

Brewer, meanwhile, played all of the final quarter, hitting 5-of-7 over those 12 minutes after opening just 2-for-9.

He finished with a nifty reverse dunk, a game-high 18 points (five coming during a 10-1 pullaway run after Detroit had closed to within one midway throughout the fourth) and a rather ringing postgame endorsement from Utah's starting point.

"He's just got a different confidence to him right now," Williams said of Brewer, a rookie who played sporadically last season.

"He's made a lot of progress," Williams added. "His body, the way he thinks mentally, how hard he works. You can see a confidence about him on the court."

Sloan was less effusive with his praise, saying Brewer "had some moments" and lumping him into a mass commentary on the need for better defense.

"Everybody's talking about how we need somebody to score," Sloan said, "but when you're playing guys like (Detroit's Rip) Hamilton, the guy we played the other night, (Milwaukee's Michael) Redd, you've got to guard them.

"We can score baskets," the Jazz coach added. "I'm worried to death about us being able to guard somebody."

The job, in other words, remains vacant for now.

"It's still up in the air," Williams said. "It's up to Coach."

It is, which is why a conflicted 20-year-old figured playing in Detroit was something that had to be done.

"I decided to come in today," Miles said, "and just be strong, and focus, and play hard."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com