Utah’s jumbo Junior Jazz guys? “Between Enes (Kanter) and Derrick (Favors), those two guys are monsters on the board.”
Will he closely follow this Utah group? “I think it’s only natural.” He did, after all, help them every day during the past several seasons. To that point, Hornacek admitted this matchup might feel like a practice from years past.
“Most of the times when we scrimmaged,” he said, “I was coaching the group that we have out there right now.”
Hornacek didn’t correct himself about the “we” he dropped while referring to Jazz youngsters Hayward, Favors, Kanter and Alec Burks, who used to be on his practice squad.
The Suns coach, who was with the Jazz in various coaching capacities since 2007, said it’s been fun to watch the progression of that group.
“These guys are all great players,” he said. “Except for when we play them, it’s exciting to watch them, because I think they’re very good and they have bright futures.”
Hayward, who’s spent the past few weeks wondering if he’d get that contract extension, anticipated playing against Hornacek’s team. The former Jazzman was a mentor to Utah’s shooting guard since the Butler star was selected ninth overall in 2010.
“I’ve talked to Coach several times. He’s a friend, just asked for advice,” Hayward said. “He’s played the same position that I am in this league. We had a great relationship when he was here in Utah.”
Unfortunately for the Jazz, Hornacek’s team got the upper hand this time.
Bledsoe took over down the stretch, hitting several free throws and that game-winning 3-pointer en route to a team-high 18 points for the overhauled Suns. Interestingly, Bledsoe, another 2010 draftee, could not reach an extension agreement with Phoenix on Thursday.
The Jazz again struggled from the free-throw line, missing 10 free throws for the second-straight game (17-for-27), shooting just 36.5 percent and scoring only 84 points. Utah also had a turnover problem after coughing up the ball 22 times Wednesday.
"Young guys or not," Corbin said, "we have to make free throws and we can't turn the ball over."
Hayward said the Jazz need to clean up their execution, too.
"Both losses came down to the wire," he said. "I said this the other night, we have to be able to execute offensively down the stretch. ... It's definitely fixable."
The Jazz will get a chance to avenge this loss to the man whose No. 14 jersey is hanging in the rafters of the old Delta Center later this month.
Hornacek’s return to his home-away-from-home will come on Nov. 29.
"It’ll probably be more strange when we go up to Utah than it is here," he said. "But it should be fun."
To clarify, Hornacek said that before his team beat the Jazz.
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