Utah Jazz basketball: Derrick Favors struggles in starting role; Enes Kanter showing big improvement
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — For the past several months, ever since the Jazz were eliminated from the NBA playoffs (and for quite awhile before that, too), a lot of folks have been clamoring that Derrick Favors needs to be moved into Utah's starting lineup.
It wasn't just idle chatter from overzealous Jazz fans, either. Several local sports talk-show hosts have voiced their support for such a move, insisting that the time had definitely come for the promising, young Jazz big man to take his spot in the starting five ahead of veteran power forward Paul Millsap, or possibly even center Al Jefferson, the team's leading scorer last season.
Well, with Millsap missing from Friday's preseason game against Oklahoma City to attend his grandmother's funeral, the 6-foot-10 Favors got his chance — and struggled mightily.
Favors scored just one point, going 0-for-5 from the field in 18 1/2 minutes on the court. He did, however, block three Thunder shots to go along with four rebounds and a steal, but he picked up four personal fouls along the way in Utah's 97-81 victory.
And, after all, this was a preseason game, first and foremost, not a regular-season or postseason showdown.
"He did a good job on the defensive end," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought he was a big presence there on the defensive side. He missed some shots, but I thought his tempo was great and I thought defensively he did some good things, and his scoring will come. I'm not worried about that."
Favors, acquired by Utah in the trade that sent Deron Williams to the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets, averaged 8.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and a blocked shot per game last season, when he started nine times in 65 games.
The long and lean 21-year-old forward/center, who's entering his third pro season after being taken with the third overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, said it's not all that important to him whether he starts or comes off the bench.
"It really isn't no big deal to me. I just want the minutes, so it's no big deal," Favors said. "When I'm in the game, I just want to make the most of my minutes.
"I just missed shots, that's all it was. I wasn't off my game, I just missed shots," he said of his tough shooting night. "I'm a defensive player anyway, so if I miss shots, it really doesn't affect my game."
But while one of Utah's big men struggled, another one of their promising young bigs, Enes Kanter, came up with his second straight strong performance of the preseason.
Kanter, the 6-11 kid from Turkey, posted another double-double with 12 points and a dozen rebounds, including a slick spin move on the baseline that resulted in a reverse dunk — much to the delight of the crowd and his teammates on the bench.
"This year I have much more confidence and feel much more comfortable," said Kanter, who worked his tail off during the offseason and came back to training camp 51 pounds lighter with a chiseled physique that he loves to show off. His improvement on the court certainly isn't lost on Corbin.
"I was more excited about the growth that he showed," the Jazz coach said. "There was two plays in a row there where guys came down and drove and threw him the ball, and he kept it up high and just finished it high. He didn't bring it down; the one time that he brought it down, a guy knocked it out of his hands. It's a great learning experience for him that shows if he just catches it and finishes up high, that's the play to make. And if he brings it down, as it happened, it gets knocked away.
"He's feeling good about himself. He's lost a lot of weight and made a great spin move baseline for a dunk. He'll continue to grow. He's a young guy that's having fun, as well he should, but he's working hard while he's having some fun."
Corbin has shown a willingness to alter his lineup and players' rotation in his one-plus seasons as the Jazz head coach, and his goal is simply to put the five players on the floor that will be the most effective.
"What gives us the best chance to win is what we want to see," he said. "How this team blends together and the different rotations we can have to give ourselves a chance to win ballgames.
"Derrick is a big part of what we do here. All the guys are going to play, and whether you start or don't start, you're very important to what we're doing. And Derrick and Paul and Al and Enes and Jeremy (Evans), all of them are going to get time on the floor."
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