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Sloan judging Amaechi on present merits

Mark Woods

Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has forecast that British star John Amaechi will become a significant contributor in the Salt Lake City team's rotation this season.

The Mancunian, who scored 19 points in the Jazz's final pre-season contest against Seattle, signed a three-year deal with the Jazz after quitting Orlando this summer. Coming off a disappointing, by his standards, campaign with the Magic, Amaechi will be likely see time at the forward and centre spots behind established duo Karl Malone and Greg Ostertag. But Sloan admits the pivot role could be up for grabs once the real action gets under way.

"I don't know if he will start for us or not," said Sloan, now the NBA's longest tenured playcaller.

"We've kind of looked at him a little bit like in the past when we had Antoine Carter, Tom Chambers, guys who could shoot the ball a little bit out on the perimeter. It's not a huge concern as to who starts. I'm more interested in who tries to finish a game. 

"I could see with his ability to make shots out on the perimeter and shoot free throws, something we haven't done a good job of in the past, and he helps along those lines. It would come down to his ball game." 

In a group that also includes perennial All-Star John Stockton and potential rookie sensation, Andrei Kirilenko of Russia, the England international is expected to assimilate quickly after moving into the tougher Western Conference. 

Sloan believes his import will fit in neatly and that his larger than life persona will sit well beside the existing stars. 

"He seems to be a man of real character and I think he's going to be able to provide some leadership for some of the younger players," Sloan told "It's early and you don't usually know about a player completely until after you have them a year or two. 

"We like what John has been able to bring. He's practiced hard. He's still trying to find his way around on what we are trying to do in an offensive scheme of things. I think it will take a little time for him to get comfortable. 

"We have played a certain way for so many years with Stockton, and now with the rules we are just starting to find out who we are and how he's going to be able to fit in that situation."

Off the court however may be a different story. Amaechi's views on, for example, gun control are well-known (for it), a total contrast from the hunting and fishing addicted Malone. 

"Fitting in is like the domain of adolescence." responds the Brit however. "I'd like to consider that I passed that a while ago. I don't have to 'fit in. I'm a professional, and these guys are professionals. And they know where my heart is in terms of this team, and that is helping it win."

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