You really root for a guy like Mike getting an opportunity. He stepped up and played hard for us and that’s what we need from everybody. —Tyrone Corbin
SALT LAKE CITY — Plenty of questions hovered over the Jazz as they kicked off the season Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
A big one was how would coach Tyrone Corbin use his bench and another was how would those reserves perform.
It turned out the bench play might have been the brightest point of the night for the Jazz, particularly the play of Alec Burks and Mike Harris.
Burks, who played starter’s minutes (31:30) despite coming off the bench, finished as the leading scorer for the Jazz with 24 points. He also handed out a team-high six assists.
Meanwhile, Harris, who was the last man standing among the non-guaranteed contract players, scored 13 points and played some tough defense on Kevin Durant after a couple of Jazz starters got in foul trouble guarding the All-Star.
“How about Mike? He was tremendous,’’ said Corbin. “You really root for a guy like Mike getting an opportunity. He stepped up and played hard for us and that’s what we need from everybody.’’
“I just try to help the team any way I can, come in and provide energy,’’ said the 30-year-old Harris, who was playing for the Jiangsu Nangang Dragons in China last year.
Of having the task of playing against one of the top players in the world, Harris said, “Durant’s a great player. Coach told me before the game to be physical with him and make every shot difficult. It was just unfortunate I fouled out.’’
It took awhile for Burks to get going, but once he did, he was Utah’s main offensive weapon as he consistently took the ball to the basket, including a couple of highlight-reel moves around the hoop.
“Alec did a good job after he got himself going,’’ said Corbin. “He can really attack the basket. He’s one of those guys who can put pressure on the rim for us. Hopefully he’ll get a few more opportunities at the free-throw line.’’
Burks, always a man of few words, said, “That’s how I play. I never shied away from that and that’s how I played the first couple of years and that’s how I’m going to play this year.’’
The first player off the bench for the Jazz was rookie Rudy Gobert, who replaced Enes Kanter at the 5:53 mark of the first quarter. Gobert played 23 minutes and made 1 of 2 shots while pulling down seven rebounds.
The only other reserve who played for Utah was veteran point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who played for just 1:47 in the first half in relief of starter John Lucas III. He had eight minutes for the game. Tinsley, who only arrived in Utah at the start of the week, had a hard time finding his shot, missing all three 3-pointers he attempted, but he did hand out three assists.
The Jazz only had 10 healthy players Wednesday, and the only other available player, rookie Ian Clark, didn’t leave the bench.