September 25, 2022

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 86-82 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Jared Butler, Xavier Sneed, Tacko Fall not playing

I hate to run a triple team that wasn’t on the court with…but, to be honest, that was the main story of a lackluster summer league game for the Jazz.

Sophomore Jared Butler adapted, but did not play for the Jazz. After the game, summer league coach Bryan Bailey said the Jazz were simply resting him in order to avoid playing back-to-back games for him. The same was likely true for Xavier Sneed, the Jazz two-way player who was on the roster last season.

On the one hand, I understand that approach: Jazz sports scientists likely recommended this course of action, and it’s not like we don’t see players resting back-to-back regular seasons as well. On the other hand, the Thunder fitted franchise cornerstones Chet Holmgren and Josh Giddey on Wednesday, and even played them through a few moments of fatigue. (Holmgren, in particular, looked tired in the second half of his game. Maybe the Thunder are trying to increase his stamina?)

Finally, the fans in attendance were incredibly disappointed that Tacko Fall didn’t perform. Fall was truly awful in the Jazz’ first summer league game on Tuesday, looking downright frosty compared to everyone on the field. But he’s tall (7-6) and fun – I even saw a kid with a Tacko’s face centered on his white T-shirt. It was kinda crazy that the fans were chanting “We want Tacko” and not “We want Butler,” but hey, that’s okay.

I guess what I want is for the Jazz to give the bat signal somehow if their stars weren’t playing in the game, even if they were healthy. (We asked Butler if he was going to play Wednesday’s game on Tuesday, and he said he would, so it was a surprise not to see him there.) It was a big crowd of over 7,000 people expecting to see their favorite players, and they didn’t quite get there.

By the way, the Jazz’s other two-way guy, Johnny Juzang, was in a car accident shortly after arriving in Salt Lake City, and is now on NBA concussion protocol. It’s unclear how he’s doing, but considering he’s in protocol, it’s a safe bet he’s still experiencing concussion symptoms – something you definitely don’t want to rush into.

2. To what extent is the playing style of jazz influenced by Will Hardy?

Instead of interesting players, what about the style of game they play?

I asked Bailey, the Jazz summer league coach, how the Jazz summer league style of play will be the direction of the Jazz in the future.

“An obviously defensive part is what Will wants to implement in the regular season,” Bailey said. “Some of the games we’re calling maybe something else last year, maybe the same game we’re calling something different right now just for the summer league.”

So if the defense remains for the future, how would Bailey describe this defensive system?

“First of all, being aggressive, being physical. Turning a lot of ball screens on and off. Getting used to it, I think the most important thing is just our shifts – we were better defensively today.

The Sixers make that three, but the Jazz switch screens; they also have a perimeter player who helps down into the paint to prevent the pass to the roller man.

The Jazz weren’t a change team last year, or at any time in the past eight years. Rudy Gobert was under the Jazz’s employ, and when you employ Gobert, the right thing to do is channel the games into the paint and get the best defensive player in the world to play as big of a role as possible. Change doesn’t do that.

But switching more often than not prevents paint penetration and offers perhaps the clearest way for defenses to stay with attacking players without the need for rotations at the back. Next, the Jazz want players to move around to help in isolation or fence-out situations.

This portends a very different Jazz system from what we are used to. Prepare for it in October.

3. Quick Player Impressions

I’m not sure any of the Summer Jazz League players who played tonight have a great chance of making the roster…but they’ll try anyway. Here are some quick initial impressions of a few of them.

• Justin Robinson, 24, spent three years up and down in the NBA, including with the Bucks, Pistons and Kings last year as a two-way guy or 10-day-old guy. He was a really good shooter in college, but he’s 25-80 so far at the NBA level. Like most 6-1 players, where he struggles the most is inside the arc: he’s shot just 32% from 2 points in the NBA. He’s reasonable enough to control the ball and make play, so it’s not like he’s hopeless, but fair really must adapt his game to find an NBA role, and will have to play almost entirely on the perimeter. I thought he was the best player in the Jazz tonight, though.

• Bruno Caboclo, M. “Two years away from being two”, has now been in the NBA for seven seasons – although he played abroad in 2021-22. He’s still ridiculously long, but his body has taken on an impressive thickness: it’s almost too big now, maybe not elastic enough. Either way, the body wasn’t and isn’t the problem, the problem is still a lack of self-control on the pitch. He committed seven fouls tonight, bending that rule a bit, and added five turnovers in 25 minutes. He was at -15 in the team, despite some bright moments. We’ll give him this, though: He was playing with the Brazilian national team and only arrived in Salt Lake City yesterday, so maybe a little jet lag is to be expected.

• Vic Law was named to last season’s All-NBL First Team — the Australian National Basketball League — alongside famed former jazzman Bryce Cotton for the Perth Wildcats. He has unfortunately been hugely outclassed in the Utah Jazz Summer League thus far. A 1-12 FG start against the Thunder wasn’t great on Tuesday, then he looked awkward again today, enough that he saw more of the bench in the second half in favor of James Palmer Jr. , who looks like a better player. I hope he keeps killing it in Australia, though – being one of the best players at the most successful club in this league in a great country is a great life.