The Utah Jazz got their Las Vegas summer league action off on a bit of the wrong foot on Saturday night, when they fell in a close game to the Philadelphia 76ers, 74-70.
The Thomas & Mack Center seemed to have a home court atmosphere for the Jazz, as many fans made the short trip to Las Vegas to cheer on the young players. Jazz fans were putting on a great encore for themselves, after they showed up in full force on Thursday night at Energy Solutions Arena for a free scrimmage. They got things started off when they gave a standing ovation to the team, as they entered the court for the first time.
Things got started for the Jazz with the two new rookies on the team, Rodney Hood and Dante Exum. Hood got things started with a corner three, and Exum threw down a high flying dunk off the lob pass from Trey Burke. Seeing the first two plays happen the way they did, most Jazz fans are hoping that they see these things happen a lot during the regular season. The Jazz got off to a bit of a slow start after that, and trailed by double digits in the first quarter.They fought their way back into the game, however, and trailed only by three at the half.
The second half was very back and forth between the two teams. The Jazz had many chances where they looked like they were going to run away with the game, however, the Sixers would come back and take the lead, and things stayed close throughout.
For Exum, he was very impressive, especially when you watch him play from court side. You may have noticed, if you were watching on TV, but Exum has length that is going to make him a pretty special player for the Jazz. Exum made a play in the second half that made me extremely thrilled. The play was one that he did not convert the layup, but he made a crossover to get around his defender, and rose up over the defense to get the layup high off the glass. If you didn’t watch the game, it would be a bit easier to realize what he did watching a video, but since he didn’t actually complete the layup, it isn’t on any highlights. However though, it was very impressive.
Dante also played defense fairly well. With his length, defenders had a tough time getting around him, and also, he tried fighting through the screen, and was successful for the most part. He also had great court vision, and put the ball right where it needed to be. He made passes that were fantastic and can be seen on highlights, however, he made some tough inside passes that won’t make it to the highlight reel, due to his teammates not finishing the play.
Rudy Gobert was extremely impressive. Gobert controlled the boards, which he should, made an impact on defense, which he should, and showed signs of progress on offense, which we hoped for. Gobert made some big time blocks during the game that were big, mainly because it helped swing the momentum in the Jazz’s favor, and was very much needed.
Malcolm Thomas was a guy who surprised a lot. Thomas was active on both ends of the floor, scrapping for rebounds, and playing tough around the basket. Thomas has a non-guaranteed contract with the Jazz, and is playing for a chance to get that option picked up. If Thomas continues to play as hard as he did tonight, there is a good chance that option being picked up could happen.
Speaking of non-guaranteed contracts, another player with one is Ian Clark. Heading into the summer league, expectations for Clark might have been pretty high, due to him shooting the ball extremely well from beyond the three point line, and being named MVP in last year’s Las Vegas Summer League championship game. Clark, however, didn’t look like an MVP of anything.
Clark didn’t shoot the ball well, and when he attempted to get to the hoop, he either committed a turnover, or ran into a wall of defenders and wasn’t sure what to do. Clark had an opportunity for a fast break layup, and slowed up, and chased down from behind and rejected off the glass. His non-guaranteed contract could be in trouble for next season if his play continues as it did tonight.
Other notes from the game, was Hood didn’t shoot a great percentage from the field, however, his shots were straight on or either a quick in and out. Some might be a bit uneasy about how poor Hood shot the basketball, but knowing that his shot is there, it just didn’t fall, is very promising. Once his shots do decide to fall, Hood could be a big time scorer.
Derrick Favors was the most impressive Jazz player in the building on Saturday night. Favors impressed the Jazz crowd in Salt Lake City on Thursday night, thanks to him showing up to support the young Jazz team. Favors was also credited for working out with the summer league team, so that he could work on his leadership role with the team. On Saturday, Favors found himself on the Jazz’s sidelines, sitting on the team bench. This was fantastic to see, as Favors looks to be wanting to develop into more of a leader this upcoming season.
Overall, the Jazz seemed to play pretty poor as a team, however, with that being said, as poorly as they shot, they played well enough on the defensive end to stay in the game. The Jazz looked as though they still had a lot of work to do on the offensive end of the court, but that will come in time.
The Jazz will have Sunday off, as they gear up for a chance to play Jabari Parker and the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday. Parker is coming off a great game on Friday night individually, however,the Bucks fell to Andrew Wiggins and the Cleveland Cavaliers. If Jazz fans stick around to hang out until Monday night, it could be crazier than it was on Saturday.
The Jazz are currently 0-1 in their current summer league campaign. They showed signs of great things, however, they also made very clear on some of the things that need worked on. Expect a better outing on Monday night.