SALT LAKE CITY — With both Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum out with injuries, Raul Neto has been thrust into a prominent role as the starting point guard on a Utah Jazz team that begins the second half of the 2018-19 season Wednesday night against Orlando at Vivint Arena (7 p.m.).
It’s not like Neto hasn’t been there before.
As a rookie in 2015-16, Neto started 53 games for the Jazz when he averaged 5.9 points and 2.1 assists per game. But after George Hill joined the team the following year and Rubio the year after that, his playing time dropped significantly. When Exum has been healthy, Neto has been the No. 3 point guard.
But he’s likely to play 30 to 35 minutes per game for the next week when the Jazz will have four home games, a challenge he’s ready for.
“I’ve been doing that for a long time,” he said. “It’s the mindset of always working and knowing your body. When you’re not playing you have to get extra work and you can stay ready physically and mentally. Of course it’s not the way I wanted. I didn’t want my teammates to get injured for me to get minutes but it is what it is. I have to be ready and it feels good to be out there playing.”
Coach Quin Snyder says he is very comfortable having Neto run the team for at least a few games.1 comment on this story
“He’s a good player,” he said. “Every time, if it’s in a given game for two minutes he comes in and gets a steal and we hit a three. Now it’s in a more substantial role because he’s going to play more minutes. I’m very proud of the improvement Raul’s made since he’s been here. Raul is someone you feel grateful as a coach that you have him on your side.”
With no other point guards on the roster, the Jazz are likely to use Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles in the point guard position for spurts in Wednesday’s game.
After Wednesday the Jazz will play the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, Chicago Saturday and Detroit Monday before going on a one-game trip to play the Los Angeles Clippers next Wednesday.