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Utah Jazz notes: Keith McLeod back for another shot with Jazz

Published December 13, 2011 12:42 pm

NBA • He spurned a return to Europe for another chance at the NBA
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During the lockout, veteran point guard Keith McLeod considered a return to Italy or Greece, where he spent two seasons.

Deep down, however, McLeod longed for another shot in the NBA.

As a result, McLeod stayed in the United States, signed with the Canton (Ohio) Charge of the NBA Development League and waited for his cellphone to ring.



His patience paid off.

When the lockout ended, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor called McLeod and invited him back to Utah.

"I really thought about Europe." McLeod said Monday. "But this has always been in the back of my mind."

McLeod has played 200 NBA games — including 119 over two seasons with the Jazz.

In 2004-05, McLeod averaged 7.8 points and 4.5 assists.

The following season, he averaged 5.6 points and 2.3 points, mostly behind then-rookie Deron Williams. But he also made 32 starts for ex-head coach Jerry Sloan.

This season, McLeod is one of four point guards in camp, meaning he's likely fighting free-agent Jamaal Tinsley and returnee Earl Watson for a job behind Devin Harris.

"I'm here to play basketball," McLeod said. "Hopefully I can bring some energy and a little life and a little aggression to the team — the same thing as before. I'm just here giving it another shot."

In Canton, McLeod played for coach Alex Jensen, who was a member of the University of Utah team that reached the 1998 NCAA championship game.

"He is a good guy, a good coach," McLeod said. "Alex worked with me a lot before the start of the season. He helped get me ready for this [opportunity]."

Miles, Hayward battle

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin isn't close to naming a starting lineup, but he said Monday C.J. Miles and Gordon Hayward are "in a battle with each other to see who comes out on top."

Miles and Hayward are wing players who can swing between shooting guard and small forward.

Both have gotten off to a good start in training camp.

Miles "has done a tremendous job with the time off getting his body in better shape," Corbin said. "His athletic ability continues to grow as a result of it, [and] he's more confident because he knows who he is."

Asked about Hayward, who comes off an eye-opening finish to his rookie season, Corbin said, "He has gotten stronger, so he's better."

A third wing player with similar attributes to Miles and Hayward is rookie Alec Burks from Colorado.

"He's getting better," Corbin said. "It's a different speed for him. It's a longer period of having to go harder, and the guys he's playing against are much stronger than he's used to. But he's competing. He's not afraid."

Coach big on Favors

If you want to make Corbin smile, mention Derrick Favors, the 20-year-old who was a centerpiece to last season's Williams trade with New Jersey.

"He's an extreme competitor," Corbin said. "... I think the fact he competes on everything is going to make him get better."

Could Favors emerge as a 35-minute-per-game player on a team playing a compacted 66-game schedule?

"That would be huge because he's such a young guy," Corbin said. "He can recover fast and he can play the four or the five. ... The versatility helps us."

 

 

 

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