This is the third year in a row where the team has had some players go into training camp and the pre-season with some significant injuries. Two seasons ago we saw Deron go down against Chicago in the pre-season. Last year we had CJ and Korver out. This season we have Memo out with his Achilles injury and Francisco Elson has been nursing a hammy.
The last two season we've seen other players benefit from those injuries. That's not the preferred way of making a name for yourself, but injuries happen and you can't just sit back and not take advantage when that happens. Last year we have no Wesley Matthews without injuries. He may very well have been cut because of financial reasons otherwise. We all know what happened there.
This season, Fesenko may be the one to take advantage. With Memo out, and Elson still not being able to play, Fess is now getting the PT at the backup center spot and showing that he may be finally coming into his own. I wasn't able to follow along with the radio or even the game thread, but catching up on stuff later, I think you might be able to say that this was the best outing of his career.
18 & 7 from Fess in 22 minutes? That's just nothing like we've seen from him before. 1 turnover? 4-6 from the line? Gravy. Who knew that the spin move was a sign of things to come?
Now, we're not going to see this from Fess every night, but at the very least he's shown that he should be holding down the backup C spot. If he continues to play well throughout the first couple of months, I don't know how you can keep him out when Memo comes back.
A great recap from Ben at Blazers Edge, someone who was actually at the game and could see what was going on. There's also some highlights from the Blazer's website, but they're all Portland highlights of course. A snipit from Ben,
Gordon Hayward gets the spit kicked out of him in pregame drills and during the game (1-5 from the field, 6, 4 fouls, 3 turnovers) but he always goes back for more. It will be fun to watch him develop as a pro. Get used to it; he's a Jazz for life.
After two games, who would you guess is the team's leader in rebounds? Hint, it's a tie between two guys. The first is Al Jefferson; he has 12 boards.
The other guy? None other than Jeremy Evans. That also comes in 18 fewer minutes (34 to 52) than Al.
Evans boards don't come against the first team of course, but he definitely has a Millsap-like knack for getting the ball. Two more days and we'll finally be able to see him play.
Again, we've played just two games so far and both against the same team, but the offense appears to be doing well right now. They're shooting 49.6% from the field including 50% from the arc.
The only downside right now is that they're averaging just over 18 assists a game. Last season they averaged 26 a contest. Give things another week and we'll start seeing more of the regular rotation along with starters getting more minutes and that number should go up.
The encouraging sign is that they're shooting well despite not having those assists.
Kevin Pelton, from Basketball Prospectus, was at the game last night and weighed in on Fess, Hayward, and Thompson,
3. Big Fes Makes Big Plays
From Utah's perspective, the story of Monday's game was the play of center Kyrylo Fesenko, who led the team with 18 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes of action. Fesenko's performance needs to be tempered by matchups. Because the Blazers are so thin at center right now, 6'8" Dante Cunningham manned the position much of the fourth quarter. Still, that Fesenko was able to take advantage of the mismatch qualifies as progress. He played with more poise than he did during his first three NBA seasons, when he was prone to rushing and making mistakes. Fesenko also did a good job of contesting shots without fouling before committing a series of fouls late in the game.