SALT LAKE CITY -- Asking Jazz coach Jerry Sloan to pin down a starting lineup for a preseason game -- or even discuss it definitively -- is like asking your pet goldfish to walk on a leash.
It just isn't happening.
"I'm not worried about who starts right now," said Sloan, whose team will play its first game of the exhibition season tonight at EnergySolutions Arena.
Sloan said he is more concerned with implementing his offense and refining the team's defensive philosophy before the regular season begins later this month.
Now in his 23rd season as Utah's head coach, Sloan certainly has some ideas about what his starting five might look like when the Jazz visit the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 27.
But when it comes to tonight's game with the Portland Trail Blazers, he'll be looking to see how well his eight new players gel with the nine returners from last season.
Sloan was asked if he planned to toy with some different combinations on the floor, but he took some exception to such a word.
"Toy," he asked. "This is a job. I don't toy. I don't believe in the word toy."
Sloan may not believe in toying around, but he has long advocated offensive and defensive execution.
With players such as Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews -- now a member of the Trail Blazers -- gone from the roster, the Jazz don't have the same continuity they had a year ago.
After a week of training camp and three days of practice, newcomers like Al Jefferson, Francisco Elson and Earl Watson know some of the offense, but not all of it.
Last week Sloan said he and his coaching staff had implemented only a small percentage of their offensive sets. This week, they began working some counter plays, but still, there is much to be learned.
"Coach tells me every day, don't beat myself up," Jefferson said. "But sometimes my mind just goes blank out there. That's a lot to learn, but I'm going to get it. I watch film everyday at home."
Jefferson and veteran point guard Deron Williams had a few interesting moments during last weekend's team scrimmage. At times they looked great together as Williams fed the ball into the low post where Jefferson finished with a slam dunk.
On a few other occasions, Williams had to direct the 6-foot-10 center to a specific spot on the floor. "I'm just going to continue to do extra work before and after practice to get better," Jefferson said. "By the time the season starts I'll have it down pat."
With Mehmet Okur still recovering from an Achilles injury, Jefferson figures to start at center tonight. Williams, of course, will be the point guard and Raja Bell is expected to start at shooting guard.
As for the two forward positions, it's unclear who'll start.
Andrei Kirilenko might be in there, but there's a chance he'll start at power forward with C.J. Miles at small forward.
During last week's scrimmage, Sloan started Kirilenko at power forward alongside Williams, Miles, Bell and Jefferson.
Paul Millsap, who figured to be a starter after Boozer left for the Chicago Bulls, started on the other team with projected backups Watson, Kyrylo Fesenko, Sundiata Gaines and Gordon Hayward.
"(The starting lineup) is always important. I didn't mean to insinuate it wasn't important," Sloan said. "It's just that someone might get hurt (in practice) and then they're not able to play. We make those decisions when it comes to game time."