Unlike his former teammate, Andrei Kirilenko, at least C.J. Miles knew where to find the visitors locker room at EnergySolutions Arena.
Miles, once a Jazzman and now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, returned to ESA Saturday morning in preparation for tonight’s game against his former team.
“This is my first time in this locker room,” Miles said, looking around the place. “I’ve seen it walking by everyday, but I’ve never actually been in it.”
Add Miles to the list of former Jazz players who have or who will return to the ESA this season.
Kosta Koufos (Denver), Kirilenko (Minnesota) and now Miles have come back with their new teams. Next month Kyle Korver (Atlanta), Devin Harris (Atlanta) and Carlos Boozer (Chicago) will visit. Wesley Matthews (Portland), Ronnie Brewer (New York) and Deron Williams (Brooklyn) will stop by in March.
Kirilenko, who spent 10 seasons in Utah, visited on Jan. 2. That day he stood outside the visitors locker room, said hello to a few familiar faces in the media and joked he didn’t even know where visiting teams dressed.
“I don’t know if that’s true,” Miles said with a chuckle.
Miles, 25, began his NBA career in Utah back in 2005. Then he was an 18-year-old who made the jump directly from Skyline High School in Dallas.
He went through some tough growing pains with the Jazz, which included a couple of assignments to the NBA Development League. In addition, he spent a fair amount of time in coach Jerry Sloan’s doghouse.
Current Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin was one of Sloan’s assistants back then and was given the charge to work with Miles.
“He was my guy,” Miles said. “He was my player development guy. He’s who I worked out with before and after practice; before games. He pretty much just kept me in it (by) just staying positive.”
Corbin laughed and said he couldn’t remember all the times he had to help restore Miles’ confidence, especially in the early days.
“C.J. was a young guy when he came into this league and we had a pretty good team and a group of veteran guys around,” he said. “It was a growing process for him. He was a young guy who was extremely talented. We sent him down to the D-League and I remember he was heartbroken. He didn’t know what to expect or what was going on, he was so young.”
Miles played in 389 games for the Jazz over seven seasons. He averaged 12.8 points per game during the 2010-11 season.
Miles said he looks back on his early days and laughs at how much he needed to learn.
“Of course at that time I felt like I wanted to play, I wanted to be on the court,” he said. “But there were a lot of things I still had to learn. I feel like I could have played but I definitely couldn’t have played at the level I thought I could at that time because there was so much I had to learn. I was 180 pounds.”
Although they didn’t always see eye-to-eye, Miles and Sloan had a solid relationship. The veteran coach sometimes became frustrated with the teenager, but he cared about him as a person and there always seemed to be a mutual respect.
Sloan has attended a number of Jazz games this season, content to sit in the stands among the fans.
Miles said he heard Sloan had come to a few games but didn’t realize how many.
“Maybe he’ll show up tonight,” Miles said. “Maybe I’ll get a chance to shake his hand.”