With Williams out, Jazz take one last look at backups

With Williams out, Jazz take one last look at backups

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SALT LAKE CITY -- For Utah Jazz backup point guards Ronnie Price and Earl Watson, Friday night's 82-71 win over Sacramento wasn't just the final straw in piecing together a perfect preseason; it was also one final chance to make a case for playing time behind Deron Williams before the start of the regular season.

Williams did not play in the win due to personal reasons, but the All-Star's absence made way for Price (Utah Valley University) and Watson (UCLA) to get plenty of time on the floor before Utah's opening game with the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night.

Price and Watson swapped quarters most of the night but had a chance to play together halfway through the fourth quarter and ended with eight and seven points, respectively. Price dished out eight assists, while Watson tallied four.

Watson, a free agent after the 2009-10 season, kept a hold of a spot on Utah's roster Thursday as the Jazz made their final moves and waived last year's pick-ups Sundiata Gaines and Othyus Jeffers, as well Demetris Nichols and Ryan Thompson.

(Watson is) another guy in my position I can learn from, and we push each other in practice.

–Ronnie Price

Price, who is returning for his fourth season with the Jazz, said having Watson's nine years of NBA experience on the bench has helped deepen Utah's reserves and heighten the level of stability when Williams is off the floor.

"Earl; I've followed his career since he was a rookie, since he's been in the NBA. He's one of those guys whose career I've always wanted to pattern my career after; a guy that stays in the league, does his job, is very well-respected. He's another guy in my position I can learn from, and we push each other in practice," Price said. "It's been a great experience."

Joining Watson for their first season with the Jazz are Al Jefferson (Prentiss High School, MS), Francisco Elson (California), Jeremy Evans (Western Kentucky) and Gordon Hayward (Butler). Raja Bell played for the Jazz from 2003-2005 and rejoined the franchise in the offseason after a two-year stay with the Phoenix Suns.

With the final roster set and games with Denver, Phoenix and Oklahoma City to be played over the next nine days, Price said he feels confident with the time the team has had to get used to playing together.

"I think we're a very good team. Everyone has kind of fit into a role already," Price said. "We got a lot of those kinks worked out in training camp, so going in the game and playing is the easy part."

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