SALT LAKE CITY — If we told you that a Jazz player put together a monstrous 23-point, 22-rebound night, which guy on Utah's current roster would you guess came up with such an impressive performance?
Al Jefferson, perhaps? Or maybe Paul Millsap? How ’bout Derrick Favors?
If you guessed Enes Kanter, treat yourself to a new Jazz jersey at the nearest Fanzz store. And make sure it's got No. 0 — Kanter's number — on it.
Kanter, Utah's 6-foot-11, second-year center from Turkey, turned in the greatest game of his young NBA career, scoring 23 points and pulling down 22 boards — both career-bests — in Utah's 98-68 rout of the lowly Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Since Utah's customary starting big men, Jefferson and Millsap, only had two good ankles between ’em, Kanter and Favors were moved into the starting lineup for Friday's game while Big Al and Tall Paul both sat this one out.
Making just his second start of the season, Kanter responded by scoring six of Utah's first seven points and never looked back on his way to becoming the first Jazzman to post a 20-20 in a regulation game since Carlos Boozer back in January 2010.
"I wasn't expecting a 20-20 game," said Kanter, who was 10-of-12 from the field and 3-of-4 from the foul line. "It was my second time in the starting five, and I was excited. The first time, Al helped me a lot. He just said if you're starting games to go out and be yourself, and I did.
"Today in practice, I talked to him and he said he wasn't going to go, so he told me when I catch the ball just go fast, get rebounds, try to be your best and don't be nervous. I appreciate him a lot because he has helped me a lot.
"I wasn't trying to get my career-high or anything, I was just trying to win the game," Kanter said. "I was just trying to play my normal game. Big Al and Paul was hurt, so I was just trying to help my team. I just tried to come in and do my job."
Well, he can certainly say "mission accomplished" on that goal.
After all, keep in mind that Kanter came into Friday's game averaging 6.4 points and 4 rebounds a game this season, so his 23-22 night was a welcome sight for a struggling Jazz team that had lost three straight, including its last two home games earlier this week.
His performance certainly wasn't lost on teammate Randy Foye, who celebrated the birth of his third child by becoming Utah's all-time single-season leader in 3-pointers made with his 130th bonus bomb midway through the second quarter.
"He works really hard, man," Foye said of Kanter. "This guy lifts every single day. This guy is always doing something to better himself, whether it's on the court or if it's for his body, and it shows. I'm really happy for him.
"He just shows that he's really grown and he can't turn back now. If he showed he can do that — you're not going to have 20 and 20 every night, but you can impact the game somehow. And I know he can do it."
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin was certainly appreciative of Kanter's performance, too, particularly in light of the absence of Jefferson and Millsap, who happen to be Utah's top two scorers and rebounders.
"We'll get on him about the five turnovers that he had, but he played a great game," Corbin said. "He was big inside and he made some great moves on the post, he came across and helped on the defensive side. To come out and play 44 minutes and play the game that he had, I thought he did a great job. He made his first of couple shots and got some good rebounds and ran the floor, and it just kind of ran from there.
"To have success like this in a game, you get confidence. As long as you feel good about how you play, you can make plays. And he's grown a lot. For not playing in college and then coming in during the lockout year, he's made some tremendous strides because he works and he studies. And he understands how he has to continue to work to get better."
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