Utah Jazz: Jazz hope to find out who they are as preseason action begins
George Frey, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s only been a week, but the Utah Jazz are already tired of playing against themselves in practice.
“They’re tired of beating on each other,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said.
Maybe that’s a good sign.
Either way, the Jazz will know a little bit more about themselves Tuesday when they begin preseason play with a home game against the Golden State Warriors.
“We want to grow,” Corbin said. “We want to make sure we get a better feel of who we are, where we are.”
Here’s who the Jazz are right now: a mix of up-and-coming talent and hoping-to-return-to-their-heyday veterans.
In full-fledged youth movement mode, Utah wants to give rookie Trey Burke, potential starters Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors, and established youngster Gordon Hayward opportunities to develop into a core worth building around for the future.
But there are also veterans like Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and John Lucas III — along with Marvin Williams and Brandon Rush when they’re back from injuries — who hope to re-establish themselves in the league this season.
Then there are players such as Jeremy Evans and rookies Rudy Gobert and Ian Clark who are trying to work their way into the rotation.
Corbin said it will be a process for the coaching staff and the players to see what types of roles different guys will slide into as the preseason and regular season progress.
The Jazz coach wouldn’t give away his starting lineup, but don’t be surprised if the first five includes Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter.
“We’ll continue to look at it,” Corbin said. “It doesn’t really matter who starts. We want to look at everybody playing and at as many combinations as we can. That’s what exhibition is about.”
Experience is something this group of youngsters needs to spark that growth and development, and Corbin admitted that he places more importance on the preseason portion of the schedule than simply dealing with conditioning and chemistry issues.
“We’ve got guys defining different roles this year,” Corbin said, “so the sooner we get that worked out, the better off we’ll be.”
Former Warriors Jefferson and Biedrins — and Rush when he returns — might work into the mix more in the beginning stages of the season, Corbin hinted. Most of this Jazz squad is so raw, and these guys, even if past their primes, offer veteran know-how.
“They are the experienced guys,” Corbin said, “so we are going to have to rely on them a little bit earlier to make sure they help this young group grow.”
On top of that, Corbin has liked what he’s seen from the veterans in camp, and he’s been especially complimentary of Jefferson. The small forward only averaged three points last season in a funky year at Golden State, but he arrived in camp in shape, has worked hard and played well.
Corbin sees much more potential out of the three Warriors than simply viewing them as trade throw-ins with expiring contracts whose combined $24 million salary was needed to hit the payroll minimum.
“We want them. That’s why we got them. They’re welcome here,” Corbin said. “They’ve been tremendous with us. We look forward to them continuing to grow with this group of guys and be as good of players as they can possibly be.”
It will be difficult for Corbin to find playing time for 18 guys (Williams and Rush won’t play due to injuries). But he’s been impressed with the “enthusiasm of the young guys” who’ve been battling for spots in the rotation.
“It’s a great thing. You come into a team and usually at this level there are defined roles. Here, you have everything wide open,” Corbin said. “Everybody feels there’s an opportunity for them to increase their minutes, to increase their roles on this team.”
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