Dante has been a guard for us, he’s played the point, he’s played on the wing, he’s got size and we just want to see Dante get more and more healthy and more and more confident and see where it goes. —Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — The wait is over.
Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum will officially make his regular-season debut Thursday against the Phoenix Suns at 7 p.m. in Vivint Arena.
Ironically, Exum suffered the left shoulder injury on Oct. 6 against the same Phoenix team in the preseason and then underwent surgery to stabilize his AC joint on Oct. 24.
He has worked diligently with the Jazz training staff to return this season and was briefly assigned to the Salt Lake City Stars twice week for two closed practices in the last stage of the rehabilitation process.
“I would caution us not to all of a sudden with Dante coming back to expect too much from a guy that hasn’t had a chance to play in a while,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “I would dissuade us from thinking he’s going to do what Raul (Neto) did, they’re two different players.
“Dante has been a guard for us, he’s played the point, he’s played on the wing, he’s got size and we just want to see Dante get more and more healthy and more and more confident and see where it goes," he added.
Jazz-two way player Erik McCree was in attendance for Tuesday’s Stars practice session with Exum and said he looked “looked good.” He didn’t see any signs of a slip-up, especially after being out for that lengthy period.
“Being out for that long of course you’re going to be a little rusty, but for the most part, his conditioning looked good,” McCree said. “So, if he just keeps getting reps and trying to get back in tip-top shape he’ll be good.”
Exum is a 6-foot-6, 205-pound guard who averaged a career-best 6.2 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 66 games last season. His length and versatility could add depth to a red-hot Jazz team who are coming off their seventh consecutive win against the Detroit Pistons Tuesday and have won 19 of their last 21 games.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Utah (38-30) is currently in eighth place in the Western Conference standings. Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell told the Deseret News that he couldn’t wait to get Exum back on the court.
“I’m excited. He’s been practicing and doing his thing and that’s awesome,” Mitchell said, smiling. “Obviously we played together in the summer league and all that so I’m excited to have him come back and I know he’s going to be really excited so I’m happy for him.”
For a Jazz team that’s already rolling, adding a player like Exum could take them to the next level during the final stretch of the regular season.
Mitchell expects him to add another dimension to the squad even more so than from a performance standpoint.
“Just life, energy, high spirits he’s always energized and from an on-court perspective he just loves to push the pace, get up and down the floor and make plays for everybody so I’m real excited,” Mitchell said.