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To a man, the Utah Jazz believe they are a deep and talented team. A team capable of challenging and beating, the best the Western Conference has to offer.
They have a chance to prove it for the first time Friday night.
Oklahoma City offers a huge test for the Jazz, and the opportunity to gauge where they are at this point of the preseason. From the opener at Golden State, improvement is expected in several areas, including defensively and rebounding.
"This is a great chance for us," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "No disrespect to Golden State, the Warriors are a very good team. Still, OKC is a team that made the NBA Finals last season and they are one of the best teams in the league. It's going to be a really nice challenge for us, even in the preseason."
It's a game that will test Utah's belief in itself, and a matchup that will allow new players like Mo Williams and Marvin Williams to challenge themselves in elite individual matchups against Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, respectively.
Thursday's practice had an air of anticipation as a result. The players spoke of looking forward to the matchup and the next game on Saturday against the Los Angeles Lakers, as well.
"It's definitely going to be fun for us," Mo Williams said. "We think we can be a pretty good team this season. If that's the case, we're going to have to play well in games like these."
Assistant coach Jeff Hornacek spoke to the media at Thursday's practice, following nearly a weeklong absence to tend to his sick daughter, Abby, who attends USC and plays sand volleyball for the Trojans.
Abby, 18, came down with a mysterious ailment and has spent the last few days at a hospital in San Diego.
Hornacek said that she's doing much better, although doctors haven't been able to pinpoint exactly what's wrong with her.
"They ruled out meningitis, and that's a good thing," Hornacek said. "Obviously as a father, the whole thing concerns you. I'm just glad that she's doing much better."
Out for Friday
Earl Watson won't play against the Thunder, although he is improving and doing most of the drills in practice. The veteran point guard has been shelved since his knee surgery late last season.
Meanwhile, Thunder point guard Eric Maynor will play, as he makes his way back from a torn ACL. Maynor was originally drafted by the Jazz and traded midway through his rookie season.
"It's going to be good to see him back playing," Utah forward Paul Millsap said. "As a young player, you never want to go through what Eric did."