Utah Jazz: Young big men Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors aim to live up to big expectations
Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz are convinced that, given time, their two young big guys are gonna come up, well, very big indeed.
As in mind-boggling big. As in game-changing gigantic. As in difference-making monstrous.
As of now, though, 6-foot-11, 248-pound center Enes Kanter and 6-10, 263-pound forward/center Derrick Favors are both still a work that's very much in progress.
And that work will likely continue in earnest for many more months to come.
Sure, Kanter came up with a huge first-quarter showing in last Wednesday's preseason loss to Portland. He poured in 16 points in the opening period on his way to a team-leading 23-point night.
But don't forget that the third-year big man from Turkey was forced to miss several months of court time after dislocating his left shoulder late last season, an injury that required surgery and subsequent rehabilitation. He has averaged just 12 points and five rebounds through Utah's first four preseason games.
With his mentor, former Jazz center Al Jefferson, having signed in the offseason with the Charlotte Bobcats, Kanter becomes Utah's main presence in the paint along with Favors.
"I think he's coming along," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of Kanter. "One of the things we have to consider with him is he missed a good six months from last year through the summer, being on the floor and being able to (work out) with the guys, so he's working his way back into basketball shape. And I think he's making great strides.
"You see the intrasquad game, he had a good night, and then he kind of fell off from there and then the first couple of preseason games were maybe not his best games. And then he had a good game the other night. So as he gets himself back into basketball shape, I think his play will become more consistent on the offensive end."
Corbin said Kanter's biggest issues right now are his "conditioning and basketball feel with bodies (banging around in the paint), and trusting his shoulder is completely healed and not being apprehensive there. And I think he's getting better every day."
The 21-year-old Kanter admitted that, prior to Wednesday night's preseason game against the Trail Blazers, Coach Corbin and Co. gave him a pep talk that helped get him fired up and ready to play.
He responded by hitting his first eight shots and scoring 16 points in what was essentially a first-quarter layup drill for the guy they call "Big Turkey."
"Before the game, my coaches gave me lot of confidence, you know," he said. "They say, 'It's OK that you didn't play last few months and have usual summer.' And I felt really good about it and I feel that when Coach give me this kind of confidence and when my teammates give me that confidence, I went out there and I was like, 'I've got to do this. I've got to help my teammates to win and I've got to put myself 100 percent and focus on what I need to focus on.' So that's how I went out there."
Asked if he subconsciously worries about reinjuring his surgically repaired shoulder, Kanter said, "Not really. I'm going out there with 100 percent. I'm not even thinking about my shoulder. My shoulder feels really good."
Favors, meanwhile, has had a couple of strong rebounding performances thus far in the preseason. He had 14 boards, along with 10 points, in Utah's preseason-opening win against Golden State, and he pulled down 17 rebounds to go along with 10 points in Wednesday's loss to Portland.
The 22-year-old Favors, who will start and play the majority of minutes at power forward with longtime Jazzman Paul Millsap's offseason departure to Atlanta, has also swatted away three enemy shots twice thus far in the preseason.
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