With the Utah Jazz's backup point guard spot likely well in Earl Watson's hands, our attention turns to a tight race for a roster spot between 5-year vet and locals fav Ronnie Price and Cav killer Sundiata Gaines.
Price is under contract for $1.38 million through the 2010-2011 season already so the onus to make Greg Miller's wallet lighter falls on Gaines' shoulders. The Jazz typically keep no more than 13 players on the regular season roster so the four current spots occupied by Demetris Nichols, Ryan Thompson, Othyus Jeffers, and Sundiata Gaines are likely to be the first trimmed.
By the numbers thus far...
56 total minutes (5 games)
11.3min, 3.4pts, 1.6reb, 2.6ast, 0.8stl, 1.4TO, 47%FG (Okay, actually a hair below, but I don't want to seem biased...)
45 total minutes (4 games)
9.0min, 4.0pts, 1.0reb, 2.3ast, 1.0stl, 0.75TO, 47%FG
Gaines, who seemed to come into camp having followed coach Jerry Sloan's advice to "practice more intensely" last summer, says he's
"coming and competing; that’s all I can do. I know the system..."
In the four games he's played this preseason for the Jazz he has tried to play within the system --a thing Price has always raised an eyebrow among fans and coaching staff alike for not doing-- and been more efficient in his given, but limited playing time than the former Orem-favorite whose spot he hopes to slide into.
Do the Jazz really need four PGs?
Probably not, but any of the four could play together on the floor at a given time, and we've seen Deron Williams excel at the 2-spot alongside Chris Paul in the Oly's, and even saw Sloan field a lineup a couple of different times last season that featured two 1's (Williams/Price) and three 4's (Kirilenko/Millsap/Boozer).
Gaines and Price finished off the Suns together in Energy Solutions Arena the other night. This group of guys gives Sloan and the staff options out there on the floor.
Price brings an energy off the bench that can rarely be matched, oft times firing up a sluggish squad that seems to be running through the deep end of the pool. That Tasmanian devil-type of spark can be both boon and blessing or detrimental to the game flow, depending on whether pogo-stick-Price gets ahead of his 'mates or plays Jazz ball. He tends to get in the air before having made a decision with what to do with the ball, creating awkward-at-best, turnover-conducive situations for himself.
When Price plays within we get games like the 13pts, 6ast, and 1TO he hung on Atlanta last year. Outside the Sloan system and we get ones like his 5pts, 1ast, and 4TOs versus Denver, in 20 minutes.
While Gaines may come across a little too cool and relaxed to the Jazz brass at times, his efficiency in limited PT is turning heads, serving notice, that he indeed deserves to be on an NBA roster. Could we see him in Ronnie P's old stomping grounds in Orem in a Flash uni instead of in the cool new Jazz colors? Maybe...
Is the Price already right or will we get another shot to see the Jazz unleash the power of the Sunny D on some unsuspecting soul? I bet there's a good chance we see him make Miller dig a little deeper at some point.