Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz’s preseason debut was full of surprises — from the beginning until the score was displayed on the massive new scoreboards at the final buzzer.
Actually, the first surprise came even earlier than tipoff of the Jazz’s 101-78 victory over the Golden State Warriors at EnergySolutions Arena.
Two hours before Utah's 2013 exhibition opener began Tuesday, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin announced that Richard Jefferson was going to start.
That meant Gordon Hayward was the Jazz’s starter at shooting guard and, despite what many anticipated, Alec Burks was slotted in a reserve role. Rookie point guard Trey Burke and returning big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter rounded out the first five in the unveiling of this new era.
"We’re going to look at different combinations as we go forward here," Corbin said in his pregame interview, "but this is the first step tonight."
Burks had no complaints before the game.
“I’m still playing my role, play my game,” Burks said. “That’s what I’m going to do — I’m going to do my job to the best of my ability.”
The 22-year-old, comforted by the knowledge he's going to get consistent minutes regardless of starting status, certainly didn’t balk about his new role after helping spark Utah’s win with 14 points and four assists off the bench in 22 minutes.
“He gives us a punch off the bench because he can put the ball in the hole,” Corbin said.
In another second-unit stunner, the third-year Jazz guard wasn’t even the leading reserve scorer. That honor went to Burke’s backup, veteran newcomer John Lucas III, who poured in a game-high 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
One more bench surprise: 2012 Slam Dunk champ Jeremy Evans, long lost on the Jazz bench for the past three years, scored 12 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked one shot.
“He showed that he can knock down jump shots,” Hayward said. “I’ve been waiting for him to show that in the past three years. It’s good for him to be aggressive a little bit. I’ve been telling him (to shoot more) since he got here.”
“(People have) heard of me being a dunker,” Evans said, “but I can shoot the ball a little bit.”
Burks, Lucas III and Evans helped Utah turn an eight-point Warriors lead in the second quarter into a rout.
Corbin especially appreciated his team’s effort on the defensive end, a big point of emphasis for the Jazz this season. Stephen Curry was held to 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting; new Warrior Andre Iguodala only had nine; and Klay Thompson put in just five points.
“For the most part, we competed defensively,” Corbin said. “To hold this team to 32 percent field goal shooting, I thought was good.”
“I think we all did a good job on our responsibilities on the defensive end,” Burke added. “That’s why we pulled the W out.”
Sure, it’s just a preseason victory.
But with so many variables to this Jazz team — an influx of new guys and returning guys with new roles — who knows how many wins they’ll get to celebrate.
“It was really encouraging,” Burke said. “It was good to see.”
It was interesting, if nothing else, to see how Utah played in the absence of departed veterans Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, DeMarre Carroll, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley.
So far, so good.
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