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WINTER Wear: An avocet wades in the Bear River to look for a tasty snack. The bird's black-and-white winter plumage heralds the onset of cold weather. / Photo by Mike Sweeney

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 11, 2005

On journalists during wartime (for Veterans Day):

"[I]n the news media that covered the war both overseas and domestically, journalists also were willing to cooperate and do their
part. The public did not see journalists (and journalists did not see themselves) as being against the team. Journalists were part of the team. Some, such as roving correspondent Ernie Pyle, repeatedly visited combat zones even though they did not have to do so, and they paid with their lives."

--Michael S. Sweeney, press historian, 2001 (from "Secrets of Victory," about censorship during WWII)

Former Aggie Spencer Nelson vying for spot on Jazz roster, adjusting to demands of NBA life

By Brad Plothow

October 13, 2005 | When Spencer Nelson walked onto the court at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto Wednesday, the former Utah State University forward fulfilled a life-long ambition.

Just don't tell that to his former USU teammates.

"As a kid I wanted to play in the NBA, but I wouldn't really tell a lot of people about that in college," Nelson said from his cell phone Thursday in Indianapolis.

No need to hide his intentions now. In front of 12,285 fans at the ACC, Nelson played seven minutes in the Jazz's 102-101 preseason victory over the Toronto Raptors. In his professional debut, Nelson hauled down a rebound and blocked a shot by Toronto's Bryant Matthews. And he was about the only Jazzman to hold Matthews (13 points) in check.

Nelson will suit up for the Jazz again Thursday night against the Pacers in Indiana, but his spot on the regular-season squad is anything but secured. At Nelson's small forward position, the Jazz already have Matt Harpring, Kris Humphries and all-star Andrei Kirilenko under contract for the 2005-2006 season, and Gonzaga grad Cory Violette is also competing with Nelson for preseason minutes and a spot on the team.

Nelson said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has not offered any indications as to when Utah's current 19-man roster will be pared down to just 14 or 15. The Jazz already have 13 players under contract for the season, but under the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can carry up to 15 players. If he's signed, Nelson could also spend a year or two in the NBA's development league.

A power forward at USU, Nelson has spent the past several months trying to adjust to playing small forward in the NBA, which requires less back-to-the-basket play, a better perimeter shot and quicker feet on defense. By working with Utah's coaching staff, Nelson said he's adjusted well to his new position and the fast-paced game in the NBA.

He has also had to adjust to the whirlwind lifestyle that accompanies an NBA career. Since graduating from USU, Nelson has flung himself headfirst into the world of professional basketball. Just after graduation. he hired agent Ben Pensack, who helped him arranged pre-draft workouts with the Jazz, as well as the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors. The Jazz liked what they saw in his initial workout and invited Nelson back for a second one just before the June 28 draft.

But the Jazz didn't pick him up, and the 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward went undrafted. Nevertheless, the Jazz selected Nelson to play on their summer league team at the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City, where he impressed Sloan and Co. with his liveliness and tenacity.

Nelson's Revue numbers 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in about 15 minutes per game were a far cry from his USU stats or his gaudy totals while at Pocatello High School. But the former Idaho A-1 Player of the Year and Big West Hustle Player of the Year earned a spot on Sloan's training camp roster with his pinpoint frontcourt passing and heady play.

Nelson had to think twice about taking the Jazz's offer, though. He had received interest from the Kings and Warriors, and signing with the Jazz would effectively negate his chances of securing a guaranteed contract elsewhere. Nelson's decision was made even more difficult when a team in Turkey offered him a chance to play overseas. He had to decide whether to take the for-sure money in Turkey or roll the dice on making the Jazz's roster.

"A lot of people gave me good advice," Nelson said, regarding his decision. "Ultimately, my uncle said I should take the money out of the equation and make my decision that way."

Easier said than done. The team from Turkey had offered Nelson "serious money," and he wanted badly to play basketball for a living.

"The money (offered by the Turkish team) was serious enough for me to think about," Nelson said. "It made me really consider what I should do."

For his part, Nelson decided to take his uncle's advice, and he opted to try to win one of the Jazz's precious few remaining contracts. It helped that he had contingency plans, though. If Nelson doesn't make the cut, an investment firm in New York has a job offer on the table for him.

But for now, the only numbers Nelson wants to crunch in his career are the ones he posts on the stat sheet.

"At this point, regardless of what happens (with cuts), I'll pursue professional basketball," Nelson said.

Nelson will have another shot to prove his mettle in Indiana tonight. But regardless of whether he makes the Jazz's cut or not, Nelson can tell all his basketball buddies about his stint in the NBA limelight.

Or not.


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