LOS ANGELES — The first hint of what ended up coming was after morning shootaround at the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice facility in nearby El Segundo, Calif.
Jazz backup center Kyrylo Fesenko joked about how hard he always works, head coach Jerry Sloan heard it, and Sloan — in front of two beat writers and a radio man — cracked on Fesenko with a line questioning the big Ukrainian’s assertion.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as any great shock, then, when Fesenko was made a healthy inactive for Tuesday night’s road win over the Los Angeles Clippers, and for the first time this season.
Seldom-used second-year big man Kosta Koufos, who didn’t play in the victory, was added to Utah’s 12-man active roster instead.
After the move was made known (and after Sloan had finished his pregame address with media members), a Jazz spokeswoman said only that the decision was not medical-related.
Asked about the decision after the game, Sloan first said simply that “I just thought I’d make a change.”
When pressed, he added this, as reported in a Jazz notebook appearing in the morning newspaper (it’s that thing with ink):
“Fes has got to learn to be little bit more accountable for being late a time or two, and some of those things,” Sloan said. “You know, if he’s gonna play in this league and doesn’t like what we do, that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that.
“But if he’s gonna stay involved and try to understand what’s going on — he’s got talent, but it’s important for him to stay focused on what we’re trying to do and not be jackpotting around.”
Sloan expounded, adding this that didn’t appear in the ink paper:
“And he’s a young guy. It’s like he already has the answers as to what’s going on out there. And I haven’t always seen that in practice, and some of his workouts. He’ll tell you he works hard, but I’ve seen guys work hard. I’m not totally blind.”
Asked further if the decision was disciplinary, then, Sloan responded accordingly, and took only breath while doing so:
“No, not disciplinary. People will probably call it that, or (suggest) I’m trying to be a hard-nosed guy. I’m not a hard-nosed guy with these guys. I just hope that he learns. We’ve tried to tell him. I don’t fine him money. If I wanted to be a disciplinarian, I would take his money. I’m not interested in money. I’m interested in the kid getting better. We’ve got a lot invested in him. A lot of time. A lot of effort. Our coaches work with him. You know, take advantage of it rather than let it slip through your fingers when it’s there. And obviously a lot of people haven’t agreed with my substitutions and all those things. But I think we can say that we want guys to succeed, and we’ve got a lot of people succeed that weren’t expected to because they worked hard. We’re not trying to hurt him in any way.”