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Utah Jazz: We're learning more about the team and its players

Published: Sunday, Oct. 14 2012 9:51 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter battles Los Angeles Lakers center Robert Sacre, right. Kanter came back for his second NBA season in terrific shape and looks improved.

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — We're just three games into the exhibition season, but we're already starting to learn a few things about the Utah Jazz.

Saturday night, the Jazz knocked off the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center 99-86, a night after handling Oklahoma City 97-81 at home. They're close to being undefeated, except for a three-point loss to Golden State earlier in the week.

Of course it's just the exhibition season, where coaches experiment with different players and strange lineups. However, the Lakers did play their starters, including Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, at least 24 minutes — more than the Jazz starters, but the Jazz reserves played better than the Lakers' in the second half when the game was decided.

Among the things we've learned:

Marvin Williams just might be the team's best long-range shooter. He went 5 for 8 Saturday night against the Lakers and made both of his three-point tries. He also made a trey against Oklahoma City and is 12 for 20 overall so far in the exhibition season, the only starter over 50 percent.

Jamaal Tinsley is better than last year and should be a solid backup to Mo Williams until Earl Watson gets healthy. Tinsley had 11 points and five assists Saturday night. He had six assists on Monday night, before missing Friday night's game.

The Jazz are deep. So deep that some players may have a hard time matching their minutes of a year ago. Second-year guard Alec Burks was the sixth reserve put in Saturday's game and played just eight minutes.

Derrick Favors is still a bit of an enigma. He struggles with his shooting — he was 0-for-5 against Oklahoma City and 2 for 6 against the Lakers and he also missed four free throws in the two games. But he also blocked seven shots in the two games and can be a force on the boards.

Enes Kanter is the real deal. No, he's not an all-star or anything, but the guy has improved immensely over last year, enough that he should be seeing increased minutes every time he plays.

Sure, a lot of those points and rebounds came against the likes of Robert Sacre and Greg Somogyi, but Kanter looks quicker with some offensive moves that he didn't show as a rookie.

He certainly has impressed his coach and teammates

"He just continues to grow his game," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. "He's showing a lot from his hard work in the summer and he's doing a great job with the rebounds. He's worked his butt off and works every day in practice and it's starting to show now."

Al Jefferson joked that Kanter "has a great teacher" as he praised his fellow big man.

"Big Turkey, man, he can guard a 4, he's rebounding, his post moves are getting better, he's quicker, he rebounds better — he's just all over the floor."

The Jazz took Sunday off, but will be back to practice Monday. They are staying in Marina Del Ray for the next few days as they await back-to-back games against the Lakers in Anaheim Tuesday night and against the Clippers on Wednesday night.

After that, they return home for another game against the Clippers on Saturday night at the EnergySolutions Arena. Then they'll conclude their exhibition season with a pair of games against Portland next week.

email: sor@desnews.com

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