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Summer League is Back, Baby - The Downbeat - #1673

The summer league in Salt Lake City makes its return.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

That's pretty much as good as it gets for the return of the Rocky Mountain Revue Utah Jazz Summer League, isn't it?

I'll admit, I'm nostalgic for the old Rocky Mountain Revue with the small, packed gym, sitting next to coaches/scouts/players/agents, and the overall feel that came with the basketball gym at Salt Lake Community College. It had a "real" basketball feel to it. Guys playing their guts out just to impress enough that they might get a deal or at least an invite to training camp.

But you know what? The Jazz did a phenomenal job moving things to the ESA. Over 10,000 fans were in the arena. That really shouldn't be a surprise given that several thousand showed up on a hot day in August five years ago just to see the new uniforms. Fans also flocked to the arena for a training camp scrimmage last season.

It's a great showing by the team and by the fans that the summer league should have never have left Salt Lake in the first place. But I'm glad it's back. The turnout shows that it shouldn't leave again.

The biggest worry for me last night was that Dante Exum and Rodney Hood wouldn't dominate. They should dominate. Both were starters last season despite being rookies.

And it took exactly one play to start the game from Exum to alleviate my fears. This pass at the :12 mark told me that it was going to be a good night:

He followed that up by taking it to Marcus Smart under the basket and putting his body into him. That didn't happen last season. None of those drives to the basket last night happened last season. We finally saw tentative Dante break out of his shell.

Here are my definitive, can't be argued, if you do argue you will be banned, player rankings from last night:

1. Exum. You could argue to put Rodney Hood here but you'd be banned. Exum gets this spot for erasing the doubts that everyone had about him. 20/5/5 and +31.

2. Rodney Hood. I don't know how you can be down on him. The man is a pure scorer. He can create his own shot which is something the team has needed. Health is the biggest issue of course but he will be coveted for years to come. I don't know how 23 & 10 can be quiet, but it was.

3. Jack Cooley. Only 16 minutes and he puts up 13 & 13. The man can board and ran the pick and roll well, earning some cheers at the end of the game when he put Smart on the ground on a screen. Both of them were going at each other last night but there was mutual respect from both of them. Great play last night.

4. Chris Johnson. He was +24. I didn't even know he was on the floor most of the time but he played 28 minutes and just did what he was asked to do.

5. Bryce Cotton. He's going to make it hard on Dennis Lindsey. With Exum and Trey Burke solidified as 1,2 as PG, and rumors of Raul Neto signing, it would appear there's no room for him. But he's played well in his short stint with the Jazz going back to last season.

As for the rest of the team, nobody stood out. Brock Motum nor Grant Jerrett did themselves any favors. But it's just one summer league game and they'll have more chances this week and next.

Jingles is back. Joe will sign a reported two-year, $4.5 million contract when the moratorium period ends. Don't listen to mean, old, negative, Peter. Once Joe got his bearings about him, he played well in the second half of the season. He's the intangibles guy that you need on the team. Peter wouldn't get that because his heart turned cold years ago, not to mention that he has no soul.

Look at Joe steal a block opportunity from Rudy Gobert. Shameful, right Novak?

Sports Illustrated has an in-depth article on the direction the Jazz are taking in regards to player development. Jack Cooley alone has benefited from the development from expanding his range to altering his shot mechanics. Now he has a very real shot of making the team come this fall.

Utah’s key has been taking an individualized approach to player development. During Cooley’s six weeks with the Jazz this spring, it was the first time a coach literally had a tailor-made workout regimen with Cooley’s name on it. "I feel like a lot of teams out there fall into the trap of ‘All the 4s do this drill, all the 5s do this drill,’" Cooley says. "No two players are the same."

Also noted in there is that the Jazz paid $300,000 for their hybrid relationship with the Idaho Stampede last season. I don't know what the bill was when they purchased the entire franchise, but I think it's safe to say it was a bit more than that.

After next season, I would be shocked if the Stampede were not moved to Utah. The Jazz have a one-year deal on the lease at CenturyLink Arena. Whether the team gets moved to Salt Lake or somewhere close, the Jazz are bringing all of their properties under one umbrella starting with the Utah Jazz Summer League. Having the team physically closer makes sense in so many ways. There's a lower cost for sending and receiving players, they can monitor players more easily, and have more control of everything else.

And as evidenced by last night's turnout, the local community could easily support a DLeague team

Finally, we say goodbye to Jeremy Evans. I'm still perplexed that he didn't have a bigger role this season. The writing was on the wall from the beginning when he couldn't get playing time in a pre-season blow-out game. There's more opportunity for him in Dallas and I hope that he thrives.

Stealing a bit from Bill Simmons, here are my definitive, non-negotiable, gut-punch rankings of recent losses of Jazz players:

at the bottom:
No rhyme nor reason for most. They didn't have to be a good player to be missed.