Los Angeles • Coach Tyrone Corbin is shaking things up for the tip off of the Jazz's 2011-12 season.
Utah will start Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.
"The lineup gives a chance to be versatile and also, with who we have coming off the bench, it will give us a chance to be strong on both ends," said Corbin, after a shootaround Tuesday morning at Staples Center.
Corbin has often said he plans to use different lineups during a lockout-shortened 66-game season, and Paul Millsap (right quadriceps tendinitis) is a game-time decision. However, Corbin made it clear the 20-year-old Favors has earned a spot in the Jazz's starting lineup, and the combination of his muscular 6-foot-10-frame with the undersized Jefferson provides Utah with increased length in the paint.
"[Favors] played hard. He improved from last year. And he showed that he's ready to take a step forward," Corbin said. "Taking nothing away from the other guys, he gives us a chance to be versatile - he's a little bigger. And he can move on [the other] side. And with the change, it gives us a chance to be stronger coming off the bench."
Favors' promotion makes an immediate impact, moving former starting power forward Paul Millsap to the bench.
Corbin acknowledged the 6-foot-8 Millsap has proven he's an NBA starter. As a result, Corbin spoke with the five-year veteran about the change, making sure the Jazz's 2010-11 MVP knows it's not a "demotion."
"It's just a thing that we need to do right now to give us a chance to win," Corbin said. "It's a shortened season; there's going to be a lot of different lineups as we go forward. The schedule and the play will dictate some of that; the matchups will dictate some of it. But we want everybody to be ready to play, that's the main thing."
Asked how permanent the change is, Corbin would not be specific, but acknowledged it's not set in stone.
"We'll see how this lineup develops. What comes off the bench, how matchups are," Corbin said. "We want to get a set rotation as soon as we can. But right now, the way things are and the way the schedule is, it's a real unknown. We'll get it figured it out."
Millsap said he's willing to do whatever a rebuilding team asks of him, but acknowledged it's impossible not to be affected by the decision.
"It's a tough situation because you work to continue to get better; you work to continue to, I guess, get promoted," Millsap said. "It's just like a daily job. You work your butt off to get places in life that you feel like you've grown and you feel like you need to be.
"I'm not calling it - it's not a demotion. I believe [Corbin] in that sense. But it's still a tough thing to try to swallow. But being the team player that I am, I have to go out there and do the best I can to fulfill that role off coming off the bench."
Adding to Millsap's situation, he's unsure whether he'll be active against the Lakers. His quad flared up Monday after a few days of pain-free activity.
"[It's] frustrating," Millsap said. "You go through practice two or three days feeling real good. Then the last day before the game, it don't feel as good as it normally [does]. I just got to play it by ear, see what happens."
Corbin gave no indication his decision to start Favors was based off Millsap's injury.
Meanwhile, Hayward earned a season-opening starting spot at small forward over C.J. Miles, who was Utah's most consistent player during the preseason. Corbin praised Miles, saying he "loved" his recent play, attitude and focus. Corbin currently views Miles playing a reserve role, though, providing scoring off the bench.
"He will get minutes on the floor. … I can't say how dynamic he will be in that role coming off the bench, but he's a good starter, also," Corbin said.
Hayward initially struggled with his confidence as a rookie during the 2010-11 season. But he showed significant improvement toward the end of the year, and worked extremely hard during the offseason to develop his game. He entered training camp saying he was open to the idea of starting for the Jazz. But after receiving a first-rotation spot, Hayward played down the promotion.
"I'm not one to think about that," he said. "I just go out there and play and compete. I don't worry about that other stuff, it just falls into place."
Hayward only played with Bell briefly during preseason practice, but he doesn't think their limited court time together will be an issue.
"You just go out there and play basketball. … Just try to do our jobs," Hayward said. "Do what the coaches tell us and, above all, just go out there and have fun and play the way we normally play."
Bell will initially defend Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
"We have to be physical and aggressive with the guy," Corbin said. "Kobe's dynamic. He's going to get his shots, he's going to have the ball in his hands a lot, he's going to play off the ball some. But he's a guy that you can't throw the same thing at him all the time. He's just too good."
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