He's a fireball. He comes off with a lot of energy. He can make shots. He can play the game right, so we need his energy and his leadership. —Tryone Corbiun, Utah Jazz head coach
SALT LAKE CITY — As you’d guess, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin enjoyed a lot of aspects of his team’s preseason-opening 101-78 victory over Golden State.
John Lucas III’s offensive output, Jeremy Evans’ double-double and Alec Burks’ production off the bench.
The Jazz’s defensive effort, how the team is absorbing and implementing things learned in camp, Gordon Hayward’s all-around game and, yes, the sweet spin move Andris Biedrins did to get around Andrew Bogut from the free-throw line en route to a highlight hoop.
“It’s a good move,” Corbin said, smiling, when asked about the former Warrior big man’s surprisingly agile drive. “We’ll take it.”
He’ll also happily take a first win.
“We’ve given them a lot of stuff so far. They’ve handled it and processed it,” Corbin said. “(Tuesday) night was a pretty encouraging show of it.”
But after digesting the positive result, the Jazz coach made it clear that he’s in teacher mode with this rebuilding team.
Sure, the Warriors were limited to 32 percent shooting, but Corbin didn’t like how Golden State got early transition opportunities.
“I thought our energy for the most part was pretty good,” he said, “but we had some lapses.”
Corbin credited Jazz players, knowing the renewed emphasis on defense, for being on their guys and for pushing them out of spots.
“We challenged shots a lot, which is what we want to see,” Corbin said. “The rotations were pretty good, except for in spurts when we didn’t make the right rotations quick enough.”
“I thought we made some strides,” he said.
Corbin rattled off a list of improvements the Jazz need to make as they integrate young players into new roles and work incoming veterans into the mix. Utah has two days of practice before taking on Portland in Boise on Friday night.
“We’ve got to get a lot crisper on our offensive sets. We’ve got to get the ball down the floor a little faster,” Corbin said. “We’ve got to get to our spots quicker on the offensive end.”
The coach then returned to defense, which might give an indication of what’s been focused on in practices this fall.
“Defensively, we gave up too many transition baskets,” he said. “Their bigs outran us early. That wasn’t just on our bigs. Our bigs were trying to take a chance on offensive boards. Our perimeter guys have to get back and extend the guys a little bit sooner, meet the ball and stop the ball a little bit faster.”
Corbin isn’t one to dwell on the negative, though.
The coach was pleased with the way Lucas came in and backed up rookie point guard Trey Burke, who also played well after a shaky start. Corbin smiled when asked if Lucas, with a career scoring average of 5.1 points, will lead the Jazz in scoring, but he certainly wasn’t shocked to see an offensive outburst from the NBA veteran.
“He’s a fireball. He comes off with a lot of energy,” Corbin said. “He can make shots. He can play the game right, so we need his energy and his leadership.”
It was also a pleasure for Corbin to watch Evans hit outside jumpers and shoot with confidence. The springy 6-9 forward has wowed crowds with his dunking skills the past three years, but the team knows how effective of a scorer from mid-range Evans can be as well. Because of all the other things Evans brings to the court, particularly energetic defense and crazy athleticism, his playing time will increase with an increase in offensive confidence and production.
“He’s been working,” Corbin said. “Where he doesn’t have the physical size to fight guys, he can shoot he ball. He can make shots. He did a good job of taking the right shots.”
Corbin hasn’t set his lineup in stone, so it’s still possible Burks will join the starting crew at some point. But his coach was thrilled with what he brought off the bench against the Warriors.
“He’s crisper in his moves. If he makes his mind to go, he’s there,” Corbin said. “He’s such an athletic young guy. His body’s gotten stronger. He can deliver a blow to the big guys in the paint and finish after the contact.”