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Philadelphia • In an otherwise familiar loss Friday, DeMarre Carroll's career night was the story of the Jazz's 99-93 loss to the 76ers. After being bumped out of the rotation and not playing for five of the previous six games, Carroll shot 6-of-6 from the field, scored 17 points and was generally a nuisance for the 76ers. He forced turnovers, played defense and lived up to his frequent proclamations that he is always ready to come in and do the little things that help a team win.
"We've got plenty of scorers on this team," he said Friday night. "We just need somebody who's going to do all the hard work."
But in order to have the satisfaction of a breakout night, Carroll had to first suffer the indignities that set the stage. Carroll knew that the Jazz's addition of Marvin Williams in the offseason likely meant a reduction in minutes, but by the fourth game of the season, he was out of the lineup entirely. Before Friday, he last played meaningful minutes on Nov. 2 at San Antonio.
"I told my agent, 'I didn't work this hard to be out of the rotation,'" Carroll said Friday night.
Last year, Carroll played 20 games with the Jazz, including nine starts. He averaged 4.8 points in 16.4 minutes per game.
The Jazz have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA: Nine players have averaged at least 30 minutes per game at some point in their careers. Six were lottery picks. Carroll is in neither category, but became an option for the Jazz thanks to a relentless pace of play and scrappiness around the basket. It's been a constant dilemma for coach Tyrone Corbin. How does he manage the minutes on this team? If he plays Carroll, popular guard Alec Burks likely suffers. If he doesn't, the Jazz lose out on the energy and defense the former Missouri Tiger provides.
Carroll was the 25th pick in the 2009 Draft, landing in Memphis before taking a circuitous route through the D-League and the Western Conference before landing in Utah last mid-way through last season. Before being drafted Carroll's off-the-court troubles were well documented: He was diagnosed with a serious liver disease shortly before the draft. Two years earlier, in 2007, he was shot in the ankle following a domestic dispute outside of a Columbia, Mo., nightclub.
"I've been through a lot throughout my whole life," Carroll said, "from health problems to off court issue, to on-court issues. I'm just blessed. Every day I stay positive."
But not playing for weeks at a time made it difficult.
"This is probably the toughest thing that's ever happened to me," he said.
A week before his breakout performance, Carroll sat down with Corbin in Denver to discuss playing time. Before the Jazz and Nuggets faced off at the Pepsi Center, Denver coach George Karl spoke of the delicacy of balancing minutes for a team with depth. While Corbin has tried to keep players abreast of their standing on the team, fluctuating minutes will always cause bad blood on some level.
"Will your team accept it?" Karl said. "I have found lately in the last 10 years that players have a tendency of wanting their minutes."
Carroll said Corbin told his energetic - but forgotten - small forward what he has told the rest of the world throughout the frustrating start to the Jazz's season.
"He just told me he was trying to figure things out," Carroll said.
On Friday in Philadelphia, with the 76ers running wild on the Jazz, Corbin made a move which - at the time - seemed made out of desperation. He inserted Carroll.
"I wanted a defensive guy to come out and be aggressive," he said.
And while it may get lost in what, at its core, was just another road loss, the decision proved to be Corbin's shrewdest of the night.
"I think he earned some minutes tonight," Paul Millsap said. "He really did a great job of coming and sparking the energy for us."