Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 83-82 summer league win over the Dallas Mavericks at Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. Jared Butler’s Horrible Filming Night
After his awful night on set, Jared Butler sat in a chair in the corner of the Cox Pavilion, watched a box score, and mumbled – half to himself and half to an assistant coach standing nearby.
3-22? 0-10 out of three? Heck, even the 3-6 from the free throw line must have been disappointing.
There’s nothing worse than 3-22 from the field. In fact, only one NBA player had 20 or more shots and three or fewer shots last regular season: Aleksej Pokusevski, the ultra-raw skinny winger for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The last time a player shot exactly 3-22 was Russell Westbrook in 2012. It’s been a decade of NBA games.
I don’t mind when a player fires open shots and misses. But Butler, unfortunately, strained his gaze. He was taking bad step backs, bad threes at a standstill, bad floats, bad jabs in traffic, just praying for one to fall. Frankly, I think he also compounded his mistakes by forcing the issue after his rocky 0-6 start.
How did his coaches react?
“I would tell him it’s a great educational game. Don’t obsess over 3-22, but rather analyze it a bit. Okay, you missed shots, but why did you miss shots? What were the situations in which you took a bad one or took a good one? asked summer jazz league head coach Lamar Skeeter. “And then analyze the 10 assists in the same way. Was it pick and roll? He should watch this game and break it up a bit.
Butler will, I’m sure. He is quite trained. But this has be a warning sign.
Noteworthy 10 assists: Butler has consistently shown the ability to read NBA Summer League defenses and pass them accurately. If anything, this summer league has signaled the direction in which he needs to adapt his choices on the pitch: being an ace playmaker rather than the goalscorer he was at Baylor.
Frankly, I wonder if he thought this summer league would be easy for him. He’s an NBA veteran, after all, and apparently he’s made a big impression on Jazz’s front office folks at Jazz practices. But he does look a bit breathless at times, putting his hands on his knees after ups and downs on the pitch. He says he trained with his team in Houston, not the Jazz team in Salt Lake City, so it’s unclear what he’s focused on.
But if he doesn’t improve significantly, then he’s not ready to play in the NBA. Indeed, he will find himself out of the league. Tonight’s performance was definitely reminiscent of another much-loved jazz rookie who turned out to lack what it took to make a meaningful difference – Trey Burke.
2. Tacko Fall, an impact
Fall really struggled in the Salt Lake City Summer League, but had a huge impact on tonight’s game. He had 12 points (on 5-10 FG), 15 rebounds and three blocks.
He also showed improved pick-and-roll chemistry with Butler. He stopped asking for the ball on post-ups, post-ups the Jazz are never going to deliver. He definitely fought more on the glass, which resulted in the game-winning defensive rebound.
I thought his most impressive play was this, when he showed perfect timing to meet Mavs rookie Jaden Hardy at the rim for a block:
Does Fall still have a legitimate path to being a rotating NBA player? It’s worth noting that he’s 26 years old, so there’s probably not much room for improvement. His rebounding and rim protection skills are frankly diminishing somewhat in the NBA. If his engine was consistently high, I think you could say he could be a little bit, a disruptive presence that could change the mood of games, but that’s not quite the gamer he is. He floats in and out of the competitions he plays in.
So I think the answer is, unfortunately, probably not. That’s kind of the problem with the summer league: most players won’t play regularly in the NBA. But if he succeeds, it will be because he plays more often like he did tonight.
3. Jazz teammates, executives in the front row
I think it was remarkable who was watching today’s summer league: Jazz minority owner Dwyane Wade, CEO Danny Ainge, general manager Justin Zanik, head coach Will Hardy, rookie 2020 Udoka Azubuike, new acquisition Nickeil Alexander-Walker and another assortment of front office executives were all at the game in the front row, watching the proceedings.
For these players, it’s a big deal to have the whole front office and their potential coaches and teammates watching. That may add pressure to the situation, but it’s not like regular season NBA games are any less stressful, with five times the number of fans and all those same people watching.
Also, it looks like the Jazz are making progress on their coaching staff. Alex Jensen, the Jazz’s main assistant last year, sat in the front row – it seems like it would be a strange place for him if he parted ways with the organization. I didn’t see Irv Roland in the front row, but he was at the game, and at the team shootaround this morning.
Finally, we saw Evan Bradds around the team in the game and at the shootaround. Bradds worked with Hardy in Boston as a player development coach.
He suspects the Jazz will wait to make a final announcement on their coaching staff until they fill it out completely, which makes sense rather than announcing peaceful training decisions.
Finally, many have noted that Donovan Mitchell is not here. Honestly, I think that’s probably wiser than not: there’s so much attention on him and the Jazz situation that he’d be pretty uncomfortable if he had to answer that question every hour in person in Vegas. .
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