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Utah Jazz take on Perth Wildcats of Australia’s NBL in first game of preseason

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Get ready to—not be able to—watch the first game of the Utah Jazz preseason!

NBA: Utah Jazz-Media Day Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

If the Utah Jazz play a basketball game and no one sees it, did it really happen? That’s the question many Jazz fans will be asking themselves after tonight’s game as the Utah Jazz take on the Perth Wildcats of the Australian NBL league. The Perth Wildcats have traveled across the Pacific to take on one of the NBA’s best—and most Australian loaded—rosters at Vivint SmartHome Arena. Due to Utah’s media contract with AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, if you’re in Utah’s media market you will not be seeing it on television. Why? God knows, but it won’t be available.

If you are able to watch it through means that may be nefarious, the Utah Jazz will be playing their first structured basketball game of the year. One night removed from having their Fan Night where there was a dancing contest and 3 point contest, the Jazz’s front office and coaching staff will get their first look at how much development has taken place from the end of last season to today.

The Utah Jazz have brought back most of their team and are very familiar with each other which should allow Utah to blow the doors off this Perth Wildcats squad. Don’t overlook Perth like the lowly Sydney Kings of last year. Perth actually has a good squad in terms of NBL competition. They even feature an old haunt of Jazz yesteryear: Bryce Cotton. Bryce Cotton was a point guard with the Jazz team during the 38 win year.


Game Info

When: 7:00MT • Saturday September 29th, 2018

Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena · Salt Lake City, Utah

TV: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Radio: 1280 AM/97.5 FM The Zone

Injuries:

Utah Jazz:

Raul Neto - Right Hamstring - OUT

Joe Ingles - Sore throat due to excessive trash talking Lower Leg Soreness - OUT

Perth Wildcats:

[Update 3:34pm]

Damian Martin - Calf - OUT

Angus Brandt - Ankle - OUT


What to watch for

Who are the Perth Wildcats?

When the NBL x NBA game was announced during the offseason, we did a little background on the Perth Wildcats which you can read here. But for TL;dr option here’s this:

The Perth Wildcats are the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBL. They have a storied history and have an NBL leading 8 championships. Many Jazz fans will immediately recognize a familiar face on the Perth Wildcats roster: Bryce Cotton. Bryce Cotton, for those Jazz fans who have forgotten, had one of the nastiest dunks in Utah Jazz history.

...

The Perth Wildcats will most certainly put up more of a fight as they feature three players who could be bonafide NBA rotation players in Cotton, Tokoto, and Damian Martin. Bryce Cotton was the NBL Grand Final MVP in 2017, Tokoto helped keep Perth in the playoff hunt as they battled injuries, and Damian Martin is a six time NBL Defensive Player of the Year. While that statement will certainly cause many Jazz fans to perk up, this Australian league DPOY doesn’t patrol the pain, he secures the perimeter. Martin plays point guard.

How will the guard rotation shake up?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

This is one of the big questions heading into the season. You know you have a good team when you’re fighting about the end of the bench rotations and here we are. The Utah Jazz know their top flight guards are Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell; however, the minute distribution between Dante Exum, Royce O’Neale, Grayson Allen, and Alec Burks is blurry. The Utah Jazz will most likely be wanting to get some plus value from Exum’s contract, but Snyder has not been one to shy away from benching a highly paid player in place of a someone who’ll give guaranteed production, see also Burks, Alec.

With the Jazz being a preseason favorite for returning to the playoffs—and in some circles giving the Warriors a run for their money—wins and positive play will take precedence over development and patience. This preseason is going to give the guards a chance to show what they got. Expect Rubio and Mitchell to average ~20mpg in preseason while Snyder experiments with his athletic guards off the bench to find the right combination.

We should expect to see Exum try his hand at the three spot, O’Neale getting more playmaking opportunities, Allen running point, and Burks doing Burks things this preseason. It’s a tough competition and will be fascinating to see who comes out on top of the rotation.

Can Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert play together?

The battle for small ball four supremacy

NBA: Utah Jazz-Media Day Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

This is going to be the first year in quite sometime that we don’t have the question of can Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert play together. That question has since been answered with the answer: yes. Now it’s more nuanced than that, but the resolution also coincided with Utah receiving Jae Crowder in a trade deadline move last year. Jae Crowder’s versatility allowed Utah to move from the big man lineup and go small ball. It allowed Utah to go big when it wanted to and not because it had to. That changed allowed Utah to be a nightmare on defense. Go small? Utah can smother you. Go large? Utah can match pound for pound. Better yet, if Utah thinks they can create an advantage by staying big in their frontcourt, they can keep their big men in by their choice.

With that said, the backup four option was held exclusively by Jae Crowder last year due to an injury to Thabo Sefolosha. With Thabo back from injury, the competition heated up for Jae. Crowder returned to camp ready to compete as he showed up in the best shape of his life and slimmer. Thabo feels ready to go as well. There’s also the potential of Joe Ingles sliding down to the 4 if head coach Quin Snyder wants to throw three guards out there on the floor. The pecking order behind Favors at the 4 spot will be just as interesting as the back up guard/wing battle.