Holy athletes Batman! I hope this is what jumped out of your TV screen or your experience in the arena at you the most. This Jazz team is full of athletes. This is probably the best collection of athletes as a whole that the Utah Jazz has ever had. It is exciting and this first preseason game gave us a little taste of what we can expect this season. Don’t misconstrue this as me saying the Jazz are going 62-20 and NBA Finals bound. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is this: with the collection of athletes the Jazz has at its disposal we can expect this type of effort on the defensive end, rebounding and playmaking on a nightly basis. When you allow your athletes the opportunity to be on the court and make plays, good things happen. If that will translate into regular season wins I don’t know. Yes this was a preseason game. Yes the Warriors were playing the 2nd game of a back to back and their 3rd game in 4 nights. In all honesty though, I had not had that much fun watching a Jazz game for 3 or 4 years (with exception to the few games last year against the Bobcats, Bucks where the young guys got big minutes). Let’s take a look at a few of the athletes that stood out to me.
Jeremy Evans – Wow. I love how Jeremy is playing with confidence. I knew he had been working on his jumper but I wasn’t expecting this. If he could extend his range to beyond the 3 point line he could become a very dangerous stretch 4 off the bench. I loved his aggressiveness on the boards and on D as well. This is a very important season for him and I would love for him to play like this on a nightly basis. Hopefully he can take this 1st game and run with it. Very happy for Jeremy.
John Lucas III - Instant offense. I didn’t know this guy could score like this. However with Alec Burks’ ability to handle the ball it allows Lucas the opportunity to score the ball some. When he had the ball in his hands I felt like he ran the offense well and was a good veteran leader on the floor. The Second Unit as a whole really impressed me and I will talk more about that later. Lucas is a legitimate backup PG.
Derrick Favors - Beast mode. This is what Derrick Favors does. He was an absolute monster on the boards with 14 of them. He blocked 3 shots and had a 4th block taken away with a mystery foul call. He altered numerous other shots, and by the end of the 1st quarter Andrew Bogut wanted nothing to do with going inside on Favors. Derrick showed some nice moves along the baseline for some reverse layups. Matt Harpring pointed out on the TV broadcast that this was Karl Malone’s teaching because Derrick was sealing the baseline just like Malone used to do. This is exciting because it shows progress. He still has a lot of work to do, especially when he gets in the middle of the paint and his first move isn’t there. He threw up some wild, weird hook shots which displayed his indecision. I think this will get better with time though. He is an intimidating defensive presence thought, something Jazz teams have lacked for sometime.
Enes Kanter - Enes more than makes up for Derrick’s lack of offensive prowess. Enes has a variety of moves and a sweet jump shot. He’s no slouch on the defensive end either and he bangs around with anyone. I’d like to see him get a few more rebounds but when Favors is pulling down 14, Evans is pulling down 13 and Hayward grabbed 7 of his own I shouldn’t complain too much about Kanter only getting 4. I’m sure there will be plenty of double digit rebounding nights for him this year.
Dominic McGuire - Solid role player. This guy just goes out does whatever this team needs him to do. He showed great hustle on both ends of the floor. I think if he continues to play like this he has earned himself a spot on this team. I don’t think the Jazz need a 3rd point guard this year. If something were to happen to Burke or Lucas, Alec Burks is more than capable of being a backup 1. McGuire looked comfortable in the Jazz offense and he looked like someone who has played 300+ NBA games. I’m pulling for him to make the roster this year.
Andris Biedrins - I’m so happy for this guy. He played a solid game against his former team. What a spin move he put on Bogut! Biedrins truly is a player that does all the little things that helps teams win. He plays solid D, is a nice passer for a big man and plays within the offense. I’d like to see him shoot a little more but this will come as he continues to recover his confidence. I’ve been a fan of Biedrins for a long time and I’m excited to have him on this team.
Alec Burks - I love Alec as a 6th man! I was curious to see what his attitude and effort would be like not being put in the starting lineup. Give credit not only to Alec for having a great attitude and being in attack mode from the second he touched the court but to Coach Corbin as well. Corbin did a great job of having Alec understand that he may not be starting but he’s going to get minutes and be the focal point of the offense with the 2nd unit. That 2nd unit of Lucas, Burks, McGuire, Evans and Biedrins played very well together. It was a nice mix of players that played with heart, hustle and determination. They gave the team a spark and maintained a lead when playing against the Warriors’ starters. If Alec can give this type of effort off the bench this year he should be a candidate for 6th Man of the Year. Great call Coach Corbin and much respect to Alec Burks for recognizing and seizing the opportunity that Corbin gave to him. I’m very happy with these results.
Trey Burke - I could not have been happier for Trey Burke last night. As I’ve been saying all along, Trey excels when he plays with other competent players. This was on full display last night. 12 pts, 2 3 pointers, 3 assists. He played with great hustle and energy, a nice effort on the defensive end and did a nice job of getting his team into the offense. A nice first taste of an NBA game for him.
Gordon Hayward - Just call him Cap. On a night that he shoots 4-12 from the field for only 8 points he just so happens to dish out 8 assists, grab 7 rebounds and has 3 steals. What a beautiful line. These are the types of lines we’re going to see from Hayward. He’s a better shooting Andrei Kirilenko type player that can do a lot of things well, and has great leadership skills and wants to win badly. He will have games this year where he scores in the 20s but his ability to do other things to help the team when his shot is off is huge. His assessment of the game according to the Salt Lake Tribune? “We can’t read too much into it,” the Utah Jazz forward said as he stood in front of his locker, “except for things we can improve on.” Spoken like a true leader. Gordon Hayward is going to impress a lot of people this year.
Overall Jazz fans could not have asked for a better start to the preseason. It’s exciting watching elite athletes on the floor making plays and delivering an exciting brand of basketball. I am very much looking forward to how this young team will perform on the road Friday against Portland (this game is in Boise, ID and my man Cody Powers will be there representing) and then on the 2nd game of a back to back Saturday vs the Clippers at ESA. That will be a nice little preseason test for this team and I look forward to watching. It is so good to have Utah Jazz basketball back.