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Utah Jazz can't afford siesta in Spain


Utah Jazz can't afford siesta in Spain Madrid, Spain ? Even if it is just a preseason game, the Jazz will have nothing to gain and everything to lose Thursday when they step on the court to play Spanish power Real Madrid at the Palacio de Deportes.

If anything, the Jazz will be looking to avoid an ambush before returning to Utah, well aware that NBA teams from the Toronto Raptors to Philadelphia 76ers have lost five games to Euroleague teams since 2005.

"You don't want to get embarrassed, you know?" Deron Williams said, adding, "You definitely can't take them lightly. This is a team who's probably been together, been practicing for a while, and is going to be ready for this game."

The Jazz still might be mixing and matching lineups in the preseason, but the expectation is than an NBA team always should beat a top European team regardless of the circumstances. That said, Real Madrid downed Toronto 104-103 on the same floor in 2007.

"It's going to be tough for us," Andrei Kirilenko said, "but we're an NBA team, we represent the best league in the world; we're supposed to fight."

Best known to Jazz fans as the club of former guard Raul Lopez, who has since moved on to a Russian team, Real Madrid has won a record 30 Spanish league titles and eight Euroleague championships over the years.

Its roster is dotted with several familiar names, most notably former Brigham Young forward Travis Hansen. Former Michigan guard Louis Bullock, former Raptors forward Jorge Garbajosa and top European coach Ettore Messina also call Madrid home.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan acknowledged: "Their motivation will certainly be far and above ours as far as trying to come out and bury you here in their hometown. So they'll be playing probably as well and as hard as anybody can to try to win."

"I think that should be part of what you try to prepare for," Sloan added. "Get ready to play and hopefully play intelligently and it's another Basketball experience in your life."

After losing at the buzzer to Chicago on Tuesday in London, the Jazz arrived in Madrid near dawn Wednesday and went through a bleary-eyed afternoon practice before taking part in a clinic with a group from the Special Olympics.

They might have been jolted awake by the recent history of NBA teams against their Euroleague counterparts. Toronto lost at home to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2005, with the L.A. Clippers and Philadelphia falling to CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona the following year.

Memphis stumbled against Unicaja Malaga in 2007, along with the Raptors' loss to Real Madrid. But Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor didn't have any hesitation about playing a top Euroleague opponent on this trip.

"You can't be afraid to play anybody," O'Connor said.

The Jazz originally asked to play two games in Europe if they were making the trip for the NBA . The league scheduled Real Madrid as their second opponent, with O'Connor saying it was not a return favor for the Lopez signing.

The NBA also has brought several Euroleague teams to the U.S. in recent seasons, with Partizan Belgrade (Serbia), Olympiacos (Greece) and Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) playing a total of six games as part of this month's preseason schedule.

Williams, meanwhile, took note of the victories by European teams in recent preseasons, but said his reaction to each was the same: "It's preseason."

Although Sloan is unfamiliar with the players and teams of European Basketball, he is a fan of their devotion to passing and team play. That some people are surprised a Euroleague team could beat an NBA team in fact surprises Sloan.

"You look at talent, but talent doesn't always win for you," Sloan said. "You've got to do things as a team in order to have a chance."

O'Connor praised Real Madrid for having five to six top players (as opposed to a true star) as well as several promising youngsters. Talking about Bullock, he said, "I would say he would be in the league right now except he's got such a good deal here."

Real Madrid, meanwhile, remains a team trying to come together after acquiring eight new players as well as hiring a new coach in Messina. It also will be shorthanded, missing Felipe Reyes as well as two other centers.

For his part, Hansen said he was looking forward to facing the Jazz, especially after playing in Williams' golf tournament this summer. However, he cautioned against overstating the importance of what is a preseason game for Real Madrid as well.

"It's not our Super Bowl," Hansen said. "Maybe for some of the other teams, they'd like to beat an NBA team. But Real Madrid, they already beat Toronto a couple years ago. It's just more like a fun game."

rsiler@sltrib.com

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Jazz can't afford siesta in Spain Five for the Old World

Euroleague teams have beaten NBA teams five times as part of the NBA's Europe Live Tour since 2005.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 9, 2009

 

 
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