Jazz rookie Dante Exum shows glimpses of excellence, rawness
Leading up to the draft, Exum admitted to reporters he’d prefer going to an NBA team that had an opening at point guard. He didn’t work out in Utah before the draft in part because the Jazz have returning All-Rookie playmaker Trey Burke in the spot and also because his camp didn’t believe he’d fall past three or four.
Although he’s said all of the right things since joining the Jazz, one of the learning curves he’s dealing with has been playing in the backcourt with another point guard and away from the ball as more of a shooting guard.
“I think I’m still comfortable at the point,” Exum said. “I still want to get the ball in my hands as much as possible. I didn’t get it a lot in my hands these last couple of games.”
But asked about his point guard preferences, Exum veered around the question with a safe answer. To sum it up: He’s doing whatever his coach wants him to do.
“With Coach’s system, it’s open, but there’s been so many times I’ve just gone away from the ball and let Trey take it,” Exum said. And his relationship with Snyder? “It’s been good. He’s taught me a few things that I’ve taken into consideration. I’m definitely going to look to add it to my game.”
For starters, Exum knows he has to adjust to the increased speed and physical aspect of the NBA game. He wants to improve his confidence and his aggressiveness. He’s also been warned to prepare for the grind of the 82-game schedule, which will include getting in better shape than he's currently in.
“It’s going to take some time,” Exum said. “It’s just about getting the repetitions up and getting some games under my belt.”
Exum, who’s only averaging 6.8 points and 2.7 assists, has one more NBA opportunity tonight against Portland before returning to the Jazz for fall camp in a couple of months.
“He’s pretty competitive. He wants to win,” Rana said. “He’s pretty hard on himself when he doesn’t play well. He’s a little bit of a perfectionist. He’s a worker, and I think it bodes well.”
One thing’s for certain: People from Down Under to the Salt Lake Valley are cheering for this international mystery to turn into a success story.
Australians, Taylor said, are particularly excited that their cherished secret is getting out.
“We’ve got a bit of pride about him because he’s the unknown,” Taylor admitted. “He’s the X factor.”
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