MAITLAND, Fla. — Breaking his two-day silence on Carlos Boozer's exit from Utah, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan on Friday suggested the departure largely leaves his team in the dark.
But — broaching the subject on his own accord following the Jazz's final game at the Orlando Summer League here — he also suggested the tunnel may not be a total dead end.
"The lights are kind of out on us a little bit because Boozer left," Sloan said with reference to the decision by Boozer, a two-time NBA All-Star and two-time United States Olympian, to join the Chicago Bulls via free agency and a new five-year, $75-plus million contract.
"But we lost John Stockton and Karl Malone at the same time (in 2003)," Sloan added, "and came back and won 41 games or something like that."
Actually, it was 42 games out of 82 — and the Jazz failed to make the playoffs in that 2003-04 season, ending a string of 20 straight postseason appearances.
For the Jazz to avoid ending a run of four consecutive playoff trips this time, Sloan suggested some help could come from the outside but most must come from within.
"We need all the players that we can get to be successful, or have a chance to be," he said, adding that it's critical his players "aren't intimidated by the fact that we don't have everything we want."
Sloan lobbied hard for the Jazz's leading scorer and rebounder from a season ago to return for a seventh year and more in Utah.
But now that Boozer has bolted, Sloan's putting the burden on no one in particular and everyone in general to pick up the pieces.
Asked about the need for former backup power forward Paul Millsap to step up next season, the Jazz coach said "everybody's gonna have to step in and be better."
"That's just the way it is," the Jazz coach said. "Deron (Williams), go on down the list. He's got to be better. Everybody's got to be better if we're gonna be competitive."
Sloan, reiterating what general manager Kevin O'Connor suggested earlier in the week, indicated that usual starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko should plan on playing much more power forward in 2010-11.
"I think there will be opportunities for him to play there," Sloan said. "When John and Karl left, he played some 4 then. And he had a pretty good year, played pretty well."
That would be the 2003-04 season, when Kirilenko averaged a team-high 16.5 points per game — and made his first, and only, NBA All-Star Game appearance.
Then again, that also was the aforementioned season in which the Jazz's lengthy playoff run came to a close.
In any event, Sloan said, Kirilenko will "probably get a lot more opportunities."
And that in turn will create more opportunity on the wing for backup small forward C.J. Miles and, if he doesn't exit via free agency, starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews.
"C.J. has come along and been terrific, had a tremendous amount of improvement in his game," Sloan said Friday. "Wes comes along and gives us a little bit more room to not play (Kirilenko) at (small forward)."
So — barring a major acquisition via free agency or a trade — a little bit of Matthews, a little bit of Miles, a lot of Millsap and Kirilenko, and a whole helping of Williams sounds like Sloan's primary plan for absorbing the loss.
"I don't think you can say one guy," the Jazz coach said. "In the absence of Boozer, everybody has to come and play well."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company