Ronnie Price made his first-ever start in a Utah Jazz uniform on Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena, but it wasn't exactly a brand new experience. After all, he'd started one other NBA game.
But it was easily Price's best pro start. He helped the Jazz to their most lopsided win of the year, 129-87, over the Washington Wizards.
The 6-2 combo guard out of Utah Valley State made just one start last season for his previous team, the Sacramento Kings. That game was memorable to him, but not in a good way.
"My first start was against Phoenix at Phoenix," Price recalled. "It was just a random, spur of the moment thing. They had us 19-4 within the first three minutes of the game and I don't think I played anymore the rest of the game."
That certainly wasn't the case on Monday night. Price's hustle and strong all-around play in 34 minutes earned the praise of his teammates and his coach.
"(Price) did a great job," said Jazz forward Carlos Boozer. "He played a lot of minutes tonight and he was ready for it. He was setting everybody up. He got some assists. He was a big key for us."
Price, who has played primarily point guard for the Jazz this season, started at shooting guard in the backcourt with Deron Williams for the injured Ronnie Brewer. He finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds and four assists, but it was something that doesn't show up on the stat sheet endeared him to Jazz coach Jerry Sloan — his hustle.
"(Price) was active defensively," said Sloan. "He hustled and went after loose balls."
Brewer, who strained his right groin in the loss at Minnesota on Sunday, was a late scratch. Price found out he would be starting just a half hour before game time. Even with Andrei Kirilenko also sitting out the game and C.J. Miles in the starting lineup as a fill-in, Sloan had other options he could have used at the shooting guard spot. Kyle Korver, Matt Harpring or Jason Hart could have been inserted into the starting lineup.
Instead, the Jazz coaches went with Price.
"We talked about it and discussed it in the back and (Price) was the guy that we felt would give us the best chance to win," explained Sloan.
Price, meanwhile, was intent on making sure he would have a better experience than he had in his only other start.
"I was just hoping I wouldn't hold the guys back at all," said Price. "I just wanted to come in and play hard and play defense and try to get into the flow on offense."
And while Price will surely return to the bench and serve as Williams' primary backup at the point once again in the near future, he prides himself on being ready if called upon.
"You've got to be prepared to do your job whatever it is," said Price. "We got a win and I had fun out there. Next time I may not get as many minutes, but that's the NBA and you've just got to be prepared.