Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The most recent action Rudy Gobert and Ian Clark got in an NBA arena came Friday after shootaround when the Utah Jazz rookies had to shag basketballs that’d been punted into the Pepsi Center seats by older teammates.
Neither player has seen much time on the court, though.
That will change beginning today when the first-year pros get a new opportunity to get all sorts of playing time — in the D-League.
On Saturday, the Jazz assigned Gobert and Clark to their affiliate, the Bakersfield Jam. The center and shooting guard should be in uniform Sunday afternoon when the D-League squad travels to Nevada to play the Reno Bighorns.
Now that the Jazz have 15 healthy players on their roster, management decided it’d be best to give the rarely used rookies some experience instead of keeping them at the end of the bench.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said the main things he wants for Gobert and Clark is “to play, get some time on the floor to play, play extended minutes and learn.”
While the rookies head to the D-League, their NBA teammates will be on a five-game Southeastern tour in Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Charlotte and Memphis.
The Jazz traded for Gobert, a French center, on the night of the June draft after he was selected 27th overall by Denver. The 7-foot-1 center has averaged 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 points and 0.8 blocks in 10.7 minutes during 17 appearances.
Clark, a Belmont University product, went undrafted but was signed by the Jazz shortly after he was named MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League. The 6-3 shooting guard has only played in eight games (2.8 ppg).
The Jazz had only sent six other players to the D-League before this move for Gobert and Clark.
Incidentally, Jazz point guard Diante Garrett was called up from the Iowa Energy last month after playing for the Jam last season.
D-League games can be viewed on the league's YouTube channel or at NBA.com/dleague. The Bakersfield-Reno game tips off at 4 p.m. MST Sunday.
NEW DIVISION?: A San Antonio reporter jokingly asked Corbin about the Jazz trying to join the Eastern Conference. Even after Saturday’s loss, 6-20 Utah would only be five games out of a playoff position in the East, where only Indiana (20-3) and Miami (17-6) have winning records.
“The last couple of years, you think about that, but it's not going to happen,” Corbin said. “It is what it is.”
Corbin believes playing against tougher opponents more often out West will be a benefit for his young Jazz squad.
“You want to play against the best, and we're right in the mix of it every night,” Corbin said. “It makes you better sooner. The better the competition is, the better chance you have to grow and grow fast.”
For the record, the Jazz are nine games out of a playoff spot in their actual conference.
ON THE REBOUND: Another night, another big rebounding game for forward Jeremy Evans. The 6-9 athlete pulled down a career-high 11 boards for the second consecutive game. Evans tied another career-best by blocking two shots.
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