I don’t think any Jazz fan likes seeing a loss to the Lakers, but there were some very encouraging moments from last night’s game.
1. The asterisk.
Though technically a loss, I think this game has an asterisk next to the score: if Hayward and Favors had played more than 12 minutes, and if Burke had played at all, I’m confident this would have been a win. The Jazz dominated in that first quarter, even after getting off to a slow—and sloppy—start.
29 turnovers wouldn’t have happened with Hayward, Favors, and Burke playing their usual 32-36 minutes. What was interesting was seeing how Kanter, Burks, Exum, Hood, and Gobert responded with the extra time, but without the two best players on the floor for the bulk of the game. We still get glimpses of the talent that’s in them and how they’re just scratching the surface of their game.
What’s been so refreshing to me so far in this preseason is that Gordon Hayward is becoming increasingly more efficient as the preseason progresses. In the last three games, he’s gotten 16 points on 7 shots, 22 points on 7 shots, and 8 points on 4 shots. He’s getting to the line at a high rate, he’s hitting the three-point shot, and he looks engaged out there on the court. There’s no way the Jazz would have lost this game if he and Favors played 35 minutes. That’s encouraging because we couldn’t have said that last year.
2. Every team needs a Ronnie Price-type player.
Remember when Ronnie Price and Paul Millsap almost brought us back from 20+ down against the Lakers in the playoffs years ago? Who lead the comeback in the third quarter for the Lakers? Ronnie Price. Once again, Price was the catalyst to a comeback, getting steals, hustling and chasing after lose balls, diving on the floor, doing whatever scrappy thing it would take in order to get possession, get the basket, and get the win.
Who’s going to be this team’s Ronnie Price? Earl Watson fit that role beautifully for a couple of years—standing up to Dirk Nowitzki and slapping the ball out of his hands after Nowitzki did just that to Favors—but do we have that kind of an energy player who can be such a catalyst? Can it be Rudy Gobert, with his defense sparking fast breaks that get the crowd into it? Will it be Trevor Booker with his toughness and fight?
3. Quin Snyder.
Snyder pulled a Popovich move and rested his main guys, giving them a break after three games in LA this week (well, LA and Anaheim), while giving some other guys time to show if they belong on the roster. This felt like a very thoughtful, purposeful move. The main guys have been getting regular season minutes, and after one quarter with the two best players on the floor, Snyder opted to rest them after playing them significant minutes in three games in four nights, seeing what the other players could do. I love Snyder’s creativity and innovation.
That creativity and innovation, combined with Snyder’s communication skills and style, seems to be translating well to the players. It feels like there’s a fearlessness and a confidence these players have. It looks like they feel free to make mistakes, which is a departure from how younger players have felt on the team the last few years (Gobert admitted as much last week).
I am so excited about this team. SO excited. We won’t be winning a championship this year or next. But we’ve got some really fun, young talent, and a coach with the personality, dedication, and communication style to maximize their talent.
Random odds and ends.