Utah Jazz: Rookies agree that team's future is 'so bright'
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — One is from Turkey, and sounds a lot like Mehmet Okur. The other comes to Utah from the University of Colorado, and sounds cooler than every media member who interviewed him combined.
Because of their distinct upbringings, the delivery from Enes Kanter and Alec Burks sounded vastly different. But Tuesday's message from the two 2011 lottery picks was the same — almost sounded rehearsed even.
Considering the dismalness of last season and the overall pathetic preseason opener in Portland that loom over Utah like a nasty inversion, Jazz fans might appreciate and need to hear their hope-filled thoughts.
"The future," one rookie said, "is so bright."
Moments later, the other NBA newcomer echoed his young teammate, saying, "The future's so bright for us."
Kanter and Burks — in that order, as you might've detected from their accents — both said that independently of each other on opposite sides of the basketball court.
The opportunity to go undefeated in the preseason was shredded apart in Rip City.
But optimism — even if tempered by realism and growing pains — abounds in the organization, thanks in part to the potential displayed in the first performance by these kids who said the darndest things.
Throw in 20-year-old Derrick Favors' phenomenal performance and a decent outing by 21-year-old Gordon Hayward, and the Junior Jazz members of this squad came through with Monday's brightest moments.
"One of the positive things, I thought the young group of guys, they did a pretty good job of attacking the basket," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of Monday's 110-90 loss in Portland. "They were a little bit more energetic."
Corbin wouldn't divulge his starting lineup plans, but don't be stunned if some youngsters are on the court against Portland at tipoff time of tonight's preseason finale at EnergySolutions Arena.
Paul Millsap is still dealing with right quadriceps tendinitis, and veterans Al Jefferson and Mehmet Okur had off nights. More than that, the second-year coach wants to experiment with different lineups to see which combo rises to the top.
The 6-foot-10 Favors was the one who did that in his breakout 25-point, 12-rebound night off the bench. The outing showed why the Jazz have been so excited to have picked the powerful forward up as a key part of the Deron Williams trade last February.
"I thought he did a great job. He was active. He was big inside," Corbin said. "He went after offensive rebounds and defensively tried to make the right play."
Kanter, a 19-year-old bruiser, crashed the boards with relentlessness and grabbed 10 rebounds in 20 minutes while playing with Favors, as they've mostly done in camp.
"I thought (Favors) and Enes both, they were big inside," Corbin said.
The 20-year-old Burks also came in with seemingly boundless energy, which helped him score eight points.
"He did some good things on the floor," Corbin said. "He's a rookie who's feeling it out."
"I think I did cool. I thought I was going to do worse," Burks added. "It was just great to be out there."
Their NBA preseason debuts included some hiccups, as expected.
Kanter struggled to finish his shots, missing 6-of-7 field goal attempts. Burks' shooting was also off (3-for-10), and his jumpiness actually put him out of position on defense on several occasions.
But their efforts and energy received mostly positive feedback, and the game got them pumped up to play some more.
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