Last night the Utah Summer League tipped off, and returned scrappy, somewhat disjointed off-season ball to Utah after the Rocky Mountain Revue shut it's doors in 2008. There were only two games, the first had the San Antonio Spurs use their Spurs system to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 74-71. The second game had the Utah Jazz beating the Boston Celtics 100-82. In both games the high profile youngsters had ups and downs, but overall each of the four fanbases seemed pleased with the results. For more detailed information, the breakdown of the Utah Summer League and the teams, rosters, and schedule can be found here. As for the Jazz, in specifics, the game preview and thread can be found here. And most recently, the recap for the game can be found here. For our Jazz the win was nice; however, I think all of us would have rather had a loss instead if it meant that Dante Exum and Grant Jerrett would both have remained uninjured.
On an otherwise great first game, where Dante Exum and Rodney Hood dazzled, the two injuries to the second year players Dante and Grant really suck. While neither of these injuries were career threatening, they are both non-ideal situations. Dante has responsibilities outside of the Jazz this summer, including a FIBA Oceania tournament. And Grant hardly got any burn with the Jazz last season, and during free agency his performance could go a long way to determining if the team brings in other bigmen or not. The Salt Lake Tribune's Aaron Falk reports that the Utah Jazz have confirmed the injury to be "a dislocated right shoulder," which is a bummer. Depending on the severity it could take a while to get him back, we only have to remember what happened to Enes Kanter two seasons ago. Dante, who looked to be in even more visible pain as he repeatedly banged a fist on the court in anguish, seems to have rolled his ankle. It happened with only 1:50 left in the game, and will be evaluated later on today to assess it. Right now it's being called a sprained left ankle. In both cases it's a downer, and a cause for both concern and caution going forward.
It is also an opportunity of sorts. The Utah Jazz have to evaluate what's going on at back-up point guard, as there are a number of point guard capable players on this Utah Summer League roster right now: Bryce Cotton, draft pick Olivier Hanlan, combo guard veteran Jared Cunningham, and even Brazilian import Raul Neto has been seen behind the bench. At best two of those players will be back in Utah for training camp. Cotton has the inside track, though I am not completely certain he is the best fit going forward. But thankfully that's not for me to decide, and it's a problem for the Jazz brass to evaluate and resolve.
Keeping Dante out of a few games right now may help Dante in the short term, while also helping out the Jazz in the long term. As for the game, well, we had some great performances. But first, here's the box score:
1. Dante Exum: Dante pushed the tempo early and often, and took Marcus Smart 's challenge to heart. He was aggressive and drove to the hoop and recognized that the Celtics didn't have any rim protectors and tried to exploit them. He also may a number of fantastic passes, some for assists, some within the flow of the game. A 20-5-5 night is fantastic for this baby Kangaroo we saw last year who would float to the corners on offense and get out of peoples' way. Making free throws is going to be key for him if this is his natural game, and making 90% of them is a big step up from last season where he shot only 62.5% as a rookie. Also, last season in 82 games he went to the line 32 times. In less than 30 here he went to the line 10 times. Getting hurt sucks, and shouldn't be held against him. Smart going for 26 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals shows that while Dante had a great game, he wasn't the most impressive point guard on the floor. He was still very impressive!
2. Rodney Hood: Rodney Hood was Option A, B, D, and F tonight for the Jazz offense. And he showed that he was capable of being a star cog in the offense. He had a 20-10 game with 5 assists. I'd love for him (and Dante) to hit more threes, but this was a solid showing. We've seen him ignite from outside before, so I'm not really worried about that. But seeing him move, drive, get offensive rebounds, and steal the ball . . . he's an all-around talent that will be recognize as yet another Dennis Lindsey draft steal.
3. Chris Johnson: Christapher did a little of everything, from playing defense to hitting his spot up jumpers. I was impressed with his activity on both sides of the ball, where he managed to snag 6 rebounds, dish out 3 assists, and finish with a block and a steal. That's over and above shooting 57.14% from the field. He's going to have a chance to make this Utah Jazz team, though I don't think he is superior to Elijah Millsap just yet.
4: Jack Cooley: Cooley is undersized as a center in the NBA, but against NBA-DL level talent he becomes Shaquille O'Neal. In 16 minutes he finished with 13 and 13, and he did it in his throwback way -- everything in the paint. He's a big guy, and hilarious to watch (his dunk attempt from 2 feet farther than he should have tried it was great). He did get blocked twice, and that shows his lack of athleticism and his under-sized length. Mychal and I debated his place in our Jazz future. Mychal is play with Jack being our 5th big. With the way free agency and rookie contracts are going I had to tell MyLo that I wasn't that optimistic to think he was just be our 5th big. He wouldn't be that great as a 4th big on the roster. But that's not up to me, or Jack, but to Trey Lyles. Anyway, Cooley had a Cooley game. It is going to be interesting to see what he does against the Spurs bigmen or Jahlil Okafor and the 76ers.
5. Bryce Cotton / Brock Motum: Off the bench these guys combined for 40+ minutes, and accounted for 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Of course, 8 of those rebounds and 3 of those assists were from Brock Motum. Motum didn't shoot as well as he can, and as a result, his scoring numbers are much worse than they should have been. Cotton, who we are led to believe plays point guard, didn't really do much of that. He scores well. But I didn't see him really do anything else. Well, he did make this shot, so that's cool.
Overall, it was a fun game. Lots of Jazz greats and currents were in the crowd and/or watching from specific seats: Jerry Sloan, Frank Layden, Phil Johnson, Antoine Carr, Quin Snyder, Dennis Lindsey, Justin Zanik, Mehmet Okur, Rudy Gobert, Alec Burks, Trevor Booker, Elijah Millsap, and Raul Neto. There were over 10k people there according to the Jazz twitter account, and it was for a summer league game. Awesome!