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Miles still trying to get started as a starter - SLT

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  • Miles still trying to get started as a starter - SLT

    Miles still trying to get started as a starter

    By Ross Siler

    The Salt Lake Tribune

    Salt Lake Tribune
    Updated:01/01/2010 0544 PM MST

    No reminder of C.J. Miles' potential and promise is necessary in Oklahoma City, with the Thunder having signed Miles to a four-year, $14.8 million offer sheet in July 2008 that the Jazz opted to match a week later.

    Nearly a season-and-a-half later, though, the Jazz still are waiting for their 22-year-old guard to take that next step. Miles made just 1 of 5 shots in Thursday's loss to the Thunder and has struggled in five games since returning to the starting lineup.

    Since he replaced Wesley Matthews as a starter for the Jazz's Dec. 21 game in Orlando, Miles has averaged 6.4 points and is shooting a meager 29.8 percent, going 14 of 47 overall and 4 of 16 from three-point range.

    "I think he gets down on himself so easily," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "He feels like the world's against him. Well, when you play in this league, there's 29 teams against you. Plus, you have to sometimes compete against your own teammates to get a job."

    "That's the tough part of this business," Sloan added. "You've got to learn how to do that."

    Miles acknowledged his confidence has sagged at times. He missed 17 games after undergoing thumb surgery in October and has had to play with his shooting hand partially taped since returning, though he insisted that hasn't been the problem.

    "I've shot it as good as I've ever shot before with it," Miles said. "It's not like I'm missing bad, either. I'm right there. It just won't go in."

    After scoring 13 points and hitting 6 of 12 shots in Wednesday's victory over Minnesota, Miles said he took the early bus to Thursday's game in Oklahoma City, just to make sure he had "all the kinks out" when it came to his jumper.

    "I shoot fine, but I get in the game and it's like I'm shooting the same way, it just won't go in," Miles said. For the season, he is averaging 8.4 points and shooting 39.2 percent in 14 games.

    Miles' shooting struggles have been magnified because of Kyle Korver's continued battle to return from knee surgery as well as Mehmet Okur's slump. Okur endured a miserable 4-for-17, six-turnover night against the Thunder.

    "I've just got to find more ways to make the game a little bit easier on myself," said Miles, who has been almost exclusively a jump shooter this season, getting to the foul line for only six attempts in 305 minutes of action.

    "I mean, it's hard not to shoot it when you're wide open, because I'm not taking bad shots, either. Just regular shots. It'll come back, though."

    Sloan opted to play Matthews ahead of both Miles and Ronnie Brewer in the fourth quarter Thursday. Matthews finished with 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting, tossing in one jumper to beat the shot clock late in the third quarter.

    But Matthews might have made his best impression with his defense on Kevin Durant down the stretch. Matthews battled as Durant attempted to post him up, forced him to give up the ball after not falling for a swing-through move and contested his last-second shot.

    "In the most complimentary way, he's an unconscious player," Matthews said. "He can miss five, six shots in a row and he thinks that seventh one's good. That's tough to play against. He's a very, very good scorer."

    The Jazz, meanwhile, will look to bounce back tonight against Denver -- which owns a two-game lead over Utah in the Northwest Division -- after losing Thursday to the Thunder on a controversial loose-ball foul called on Paul Millsap with 4.5 seconds remaining.

    "It's a tough one to swallow," Deron Williams said. "We were right there. We played good enough defense the whole game to win the basketball game. It's just offensively, we didn't have everybody going."

    Briefly Flash guard Dontell Jefferson made a strong case to fill the Jazz's third point guard vacancy, finishing with 27 points and six assists, while hitting 10 of 15 shots and 3 of 5 three-pointers in a 105-94 victory Thursday against Albuquerque. Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor did not scout the game in person, though, as he did earlier in the week.
    Jazz vs. Nuggets

    At EnergySolutions Arena

    Time 7 p.m.

    TV FSN Utah

    Radio 1320 AM, 98.7 FM

    Records Jazz 18-14, Denver 20-12

    Last meeting Denver, 114-105 (Oct. 28)

    Line Jazz by 41/2

    About the Jazz The Jazz were in control of their opening-night game in Denver for three quarters before falling apart in the fourth. Carlos Boozer went 3-for-14 in finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Nuggets rookie Ty Lawson was dazzling with 17 points and six assists. ... Kyle Korver's availability is uncertain after he skipped the Jazz's two-game trip to continue to rehab his left knee.

    About the Nuggets Denver hasn't played since losing 106-101 to Sacramento on Monday, a game in which Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points but took a career-high 35 shots. ... The Nuggets have lost three in a row overall (Sacramento, Portland, Dallas) and six straight on the road, where they are 7-10 this season. ... Chauncey Billups is questionable with a strained groin. Billups has missed five of the last six games and sat out practices this week.
    Miles off the mark

    C.J Miles has struggled in five games since replacing Wesley Matthews in the starting five. A look at his play in that stretch:
    Date Opp FGM-FGA 3PM-3PA Pts
    Dec. 21 at Orlando 5-15 3-7 13
    Dec. 23 at Miami 1-9 0-3 2
    Saturday Philadelphia 1-6 0-1 2
    Wednesday at Minnesota 6-12 1-3 13
    Thursday at Oklahoma City 1-5 0-2 2

    I think you enjoy the game more if you don't know the rules. Anyway you're on the same wavelength as the referees. ~Jonathan Davies, 1995