The NBA season is back!
To start the preseason the Utah Jazz will take on the Phoenix Suns. For the Jazz this will be a chance to leave their disappointing finish in the first round of the playoffs behind them.
For Phoenix they are coming into the season with a new-look roster featuring Chris Paul at point guard. They also brought in Jae Crowder who will bring an additional veteran presence. This Suns team is one of the more hyped teams in the league and should be a lot of fun to watch as the season progresses to see how good they can be.
According to the Jazz Mike Conley and Royce O’neale will be out for rest and Shaq Harrison is still nursing a broken right hand.
Injury report for our first preseason game:— utahjazz (@utahjazz) December 12, 2020
Mike Conley - OUT (rest)
Shaquille Harrison - OUT (right hand fracture)
Royce O’Neale - OUT (rest)
It looks like Conley and O’Neale are, more specifically, sitting for medical protocol.
Mike Conley and Royce O’Neale are both OUT tomorrow due to the NBA’s medical protocol. Shaq Harrison is OUT due to right hand fracture.— Eric Walden (@esotericwalden) December 12, 2020
We know that Conley missed at least one practice because of being exposed to someone with COVID. Hopefully everything is okay with these players and they can get on the court soon. With a shortened season every rep together counts.
When: Saturday, December 12th • 7:00 PM MT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena - Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
What to watch for
How does the chemistry look?
Last season was a roller coaster ride of up-and-down play that was caused by chemistry issues with the Jazz’s best players. It’s only a preseason game and not a lot is at stake but it will be interesting to watch the players’ body language on the floor.
Are we going to see players moving well within the system? Utah has made very little adjustments to the main components of the roster. And adding Derrick Favors means they have a player already familiar with Quin Snyder and his systems.
Considering Mike Conley and Royce O’neale are out, things won’t be perfect, but the team should at least look comfortable in their system.
If things don’t look good, is that a sign of issues behind closed doors? Utah is in the middle of negotiations with their star center, Rudy Gobert. Is their tension from that that leaks onto the floor?
Do we get to see the rookies play?
For a #27 pick and a #39 pick there’s a good amount of hype. Some of that comes from typical fanaticism but some of that also comes from a 2020 NBA draft that was remarkably deep.
Utah made a surprise pick at #27 picking Udoka Azubuike. Fans were surprised because they passed on other well esteemed players that were available at that spot like Desmond Bane or Xavier Tillman. It may be another example of the front office knowing better than fans with some of the reports out of camp.
Bogey on the two Jazz rookies: "I think both of them are ready to step in and play some minutes. The big guy (Azubuike) is pretty athletic — honestly, I’m surprised he was drafted that late."— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) December 8, 2020
Azubuike has a chance to turn heads, and he needs to if he wants to see any playing time. The Jazz have said that they plan on having Derrick Favors play mostly backup center which means that Azubuike will have to leapfrog Favors to get regular minutes. That is very unlikely. More likely is that we see Azubuike get big minutes in the preseason and then in the regular season get occasional minutes when the Jazz have games where they use a Favors/Gobert front court. Against a team like the Los Angeles Lakers, for example.
So for Jazz fans, tonight is a big chance to see Azubuike in action. Does he surprise with his size and athleticism? Let’s hope so because it was definitely a surprise pick and Utah had other options at that spot.
This will also be a chance to see #39 pick Elijah Hughes. Hughes comes with a polished offensive game. His defense is a bit of a question mark because he comes from playing a zone at Syracuse. So tonight should be fun to see how he plays with the Jazz. Hughes has a lot of tools to be excited about. Normally I wouldn’t expect much from a #39 pick but there are reasons to be excited about the potential with Hughes. He has nice size (he’s listed as 6”6’) and his jumpshot looks like it will translate nicely to the NBA. He also looks like he has a strong frame (listed at 215 lbs.)
Having Conley and O’Neale out means the Jazz will have minutes to give to the young guys which makes for a fun preseason game for Jazz fans.