It was just the start of summer league play, months out from the beginning of another NBA season — but don’t tell Jazz fans that. Over 10,000 strong (10,215, to be exact) packed into Energy Solutions Arena for the opener of the Utah Jazz Summer Leaugue, and the atmosphere in the building resembled a midseason game at times.
The quality of play wasn’t quite up to this same par in Utah’s 100-82 win, but the intensity certainly was for periods. It was easy to tell right away that many guys in this game were playing for a job further down the line, with several hard fouls1 and guys diving on the floor for loose balls left and right. Jack Cooley was animated throughout the game, and our media vantage point right on the floor allowed us to easily hear the high level of communication on the floor from both teams. It was about as exciting an atmosphere as one could have asked for in a mid-July NBA experience.
As is expected in these sorts of competitions, however, the true talent rose to the top before the night was out. Smart imposed his physical profile on the game from the jump as Boston’s lead ball-handler, finishing with 13 free-throw attempts to somewhat drown out an iffy 6-20 shooting night. He racked up eight dimes and five boards to go along with them, and also flustered Utah’s Dante Exum just a bit early on.
This changed quickly, though. Exum shook off some rust from the first quarter and began thoroughly dominating the game in the second, leaving Smart and whichever other defenders he faced in his dust repeatedly while showcasing the sort of aggression Jazz fans pined for last season. He took 10 free-throws of his own on the night, sinking nine, and was challenging bigger bodies at the rim in a way he essentially never did last year. He finished as a game-high plus-31 in just under 29 minutes, with his usual dose of excellent defense on the other end. An injury scare near the end of the game is certainly cause for concern, but it appears to just be a sprain according to the Jazz’s training staff. It could see Exum held out for some of the remainder of the Utah league, and it feels unlikely that he plays Tuesday night.
Rodney Hood is the other second-year Jazzman expected to rise head and shoulders above his competition this summer, and he didn’t disappoint either. Hood complemented a seemingly effortless 23 points with 10 rebounds and strong defensive play, and just seemed completely relaxed and comfortable from start to finish. He took his time with the ball, found his spots and put up and efficient game, and it felt like he could very easily have gone much harder. Though he sustained no injuries, like Exum we may only see him in bits and spurts through the remainder of summer league — he’s clearly a level above this competition, and the Jazz are unlikely to risk any maladies by running him for too large a minutes sample.
Overall, it was an entertaining and positive opening night for the Jazz in 2015 summer league. Their team chemistry was a bit off early on but came together as the game wore on, and many of the same principles that saw this team rise to among the league’s elite were present on this night even if foundational guys like Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors weren’t in the game. The Jazz will look to keep the momentum going tomorrow against a long and bulky Spurs summer squad.
|Boston Celtics||82||Final | Box Score||100||Utah Jazz|
|Chris Johnson, SF 28 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +24 +/-Johnson looked like a guy fighting for a roster slot in his first summer league appearance. He had tons of hustle and came around screens with a purpose, and finished with a plus-24 for the game, second only to Exum.|
|Grant Jerrett, PF 13 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +7 +/-Jerrett wasn’t playing all too well before he went down with what looked like a potentially serious shoulder dislocation, shooting just 2-8 and looking out of rhthm. Here’s hoping the injury is on the lower end of the spectrum.|
|Jack Cooley, C 16 MIN | 6-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 13 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +15 +/-Cooley dominated the D-League through raw force last year, and did the same against Boston. He bullied his way around down low and played the sort of physical game that endears him to fans.|
|Rodney Hood, SG 29 MIN | 9-17 FG | 4-6 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 23 PTS | +21 +/-Things were almost too easy for Hood tonight, and he scored at will. The diversity to his offensive game so early in his career is a huge boon to the franchise.|
|Dante Exum, PG 28 MIN | 5-11 FG | 9-10 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +31 +/-The injury is the only concern here for Exum, who played a fantastic game and gave Jazz fans their biggest reason thus far to be excited about next season.|
|Brock Motum, PF 22 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 4 PTS | +10 +/-Motum couldn’t get his shot to fall, going 2-8 on the night, though he picked up eight rebounds. The bigger concern is defensively, where he was overmatched even at this level.|
|Bryce Cotton, PG 20 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +8 +/-Cotton had a few notable plays, including a buzzer-beater 3 to close the first half, but was perhaps a bit less energetic relative to expectations than some had hoped in such a fast-paced game.|
|Olivier Hanlan, PG 12 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -5 +/-Hanlan was mostly anonymous in his first Jazz action, seeing 12 minutes and finding just three points. He should see a bigger role if Exum is held out moving forward.|
|Jared Cunningham, SG 12 MIN | 1-2 FG | 5-8 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -10 +/-He can hardly be blamed, but Cunningham was wildly outplayed by Boston guards Smart and Terry Rozier when Exum hit the bench. He’ll get more of a chance to prove himself against teams without such high-end talent in the backcourt.|
|JaJuan Johnson, PF 11 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -6 +/-Johnson had a couple nice blocks and played some good interior defense, but was mostly invisible otherwise.|
Jensen’s mandate is generally to play most of his roster and put guys in positions to develop and showcase their skills, and he did so tonight. Expect him to go even further into his bench moving forward.