SALT LAKE CITY — Scoreboard watching is a highly popular pastime among the American sporting public.

It's generally associated with major league baseball, whose fans keep a close eye on how other teams are doing during the heat of a pennant race each summer and early fall.

But with the 2011-12 NBA campaign coming down the home stretch, the Utah Jazz and their fans definitely find themselves nervously doing some scoreboard watching of their own these days as well.

However, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin and his players are trying hard to keep their own eyes focused on their opponents, and not on the scoreboard that shows how the other teams in the league have fared on a given night.

"I just worry about us," said Utah center Al Jefferson, the team's leading scorer and rebounder who has yet to reach the playoffs in his eight-year NBA career. "I used to do that because I'm not used to being in a playoff run, and Devin (Harris) said don't worry about everybody else, just keep winning games and everything will take care of itself. So that's what I'm doing.

"We're just taking it one game at a time. Coaches want us to take it one game at a time and worry about the team we're facing that night and not worry nothing else. Like Devin said, if we continue to win games, everything else is gonna work out and everything will be okay.

"When you get into that little, well, we want this team to lose and we win and this team lose, you get into that, that's kind of pointless," Jefferson said. "You get out there and take care of what you need to take care of, everything else will work out and everything will be fine."

Corbin admitted it's sometimes difficult not to cast an eye in the direction of those NBA scores on TV or the Internet, though, just to see what's transpired on a given night.

After all, at 27-25 after Friday night's frustating loss to the Sacramento Kings, the Jazz find themselves sitting in ninth place in the tight Western Conference playoff race — and only the top eight regular-season finishers will advance to the postseason.

"(I) try not to," Corbin said of the temptation to take a peek at the other NBA scores each night. "You watch and see what guys on other teams are doing, especially guys that we're playing against. But the teams we're playing against are the teams we're competing against for playoff spots.

"It can be nerve-wracking because every game or two it can change and we want to make sure we understand what's going on with us before we go into a situation where we're hoping somebody else loses so we can make up for it or whatever.

"We want to continue to just play well and I'll watch it and not try and go crazy doing it," he said.

The Jazz keep a grease-board in their locker room which lists the top Western Conference playoff contenders, and they update it with each passing day. With a red line of demarcation drawn to separate the haves and have-hots, it displays who's in — and out — of the playoffs.

"I know where we're at based on the white board in there (the locker room)," said second-year swingman Gordon Hayward, who two years ago was getting ready to lead his upstart Butler Bulldogs team into the NCAA's Final Four. "If we just focus on ourselves and not worry about that, if we win our games, we'll be fine. So that's all we can do."

Veteran power forward Paul Millsap admitted he does take a gander at the NBA scoreboard occasionally, but said that it's silly to spend too much time or energy worry about what other teams are doing.

"At the end of the day, we've got to worry about ourselves," he said. "At the end of the day, we've got to get wins."

THE RETURN OF JIMMER: The last time former BYU superstar Jimmer Fredette came to town with the Kings back in January, thousands of EnergySolution Arena fans roared or booed every time he made a shot — or, sometimes, even when he simply entered the game or touched the ball. It was much the same way Friday night The Jazz weren't fazed by Fredette's raucous reception, saying it's to be expected for someone who had the type of collegiate career that Jimmer did with the Cougars.

"It's died down a little bit," Corbin said of Jimmermania. "But naturally, the kid deserves it, man. He had a great college career here, the people really love him and it was his first chance back (to play here).

"He had a chance in the draft to possibly being on this team. Fortunately for him, he was drafted a little sooner (10th), so they were excited for him and I think they still are. He's done well; he's trying to find his way in this league, and he can score the ball. And they want to see him do well."

Jefferson gave Jimmer plenty of props, too, but said that true Jazz fans found their allegiance late in that 96-93 Utah win on Jan. 28, when Fredette's last-gasp 3-pointer fell short.

"I wasn't surprised how many fans he's got here," Big Al said. "People love him here and he's a living legend here, (for) BYU I guess. So I wasn't surprised.

"But at the end of the day, they was here to cheer for the Jazz and they wanted the Jazz to get the win." Millsap remembers it well, too, even if he had a little trouble remembering which rivalry school Fredette played for.

"It was wild, it was crazy — the return of Jimmer. It was amazing," Millsap said. "He was a Hall of Fame-type player coming out of Utah, so it happens. Coming out of BYU, I mean, not Utah — better get that right."

IN HIS COACH'S CORNER: Jefferson was asked to evaluate the job that Corbin has done coaching the Jazz since taking over for Jerry Sloan, who abruptly resigned last February.

"From last year to where he just got put into this situation, I always thought he handled it very well," Jefferson said of his coach. "And he's getting better and better every day. Even with this year with the short training camp with the lockout and everything, I think he's been handling the situation well. And if it wasn't for him, I don't think we'd be in this position (pushing for a playoff spot). "One thing I do love about Coach is, he don't care who you is, if you're not doing your job, he's going to call you out. And that's from me all the way down to (14th man) Jeremy Evans, he's gonna let you know. And I think we need that. I think we need to let everybody know that we're all on the same level. There's not a superstar on this team but, if there was, I wouldn't be surprised if Coach would still go at him just like he goes at the rest of us. So that's one thing I love about him and respect about him.

"You know, we's family and sometimes family do have misunderstandings up and down but, at the end of the day, he's the boss and we respect him," Jefferson said. "And I think he's doing a great job with this team."

HOOSIER HERO: Friday was a rare road win for Sacramento, and it also marked the 25th anniversary of Keith Smart's own, personal "one shining moment."

It was March 30, 1987, when Smart, currently the Kings' head coach, hit a clutch shot from the corner with five seconds left to give Indiana University a dramatic 74-73 victory over Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament's championship game.

Former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan's son Brian was a junior forward/center on that Hoosiers title team, which was coached by Bobby Knight.

email: rhollis@desnews.com

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