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How the Jazz’s summer league game reveals a defensive change is coming

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Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 86-82 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers from writer Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune.

1. Jared Butler, Xavier Sneed, Tacko Fall don’t play

I hate leading a Triple Team with someone who wasn’t on the court … but, to be honest, that was the main story in a monotonous summer league game for the Jazz.

Sophomore Jared Butler suited up but did not play for the Jazz. After the game, summer league coach Bryan Bailey said the Jazz were only resting him to avoid playing him in back-to-back games. The same was probably true for Xavier Sneed, the Jazz’s two-way player who made the list last season.

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On the one hand, I understand that approach: Jazz sports scientists have likely recommended that course of action, and it’s not like we won’t see players rest through the regular season back to back as well. On the other hand, the Thunder dressed franchise mainstays Chet Holmgren and Josh Giddey on Wednesday, and even played them in some tiring moments. (Holmgren, especially, seemed tired in the second half of his game. Perhaps the Thunder are trying to build up their stamina?)

Finally, the fans in attendance were incredibly disappointed that Tacko Fall didn’t play. The fall was truly awful in the Jazz’s summer league opener on Tuesday, looking downright icy compared to everyone else on the floor. But he’s tall (7-6) and fun; I even saw a kid with Tacko’s face centered on his white t-shirt. It was a little wild for fans to chant “We want Tacko” and not “We want Butler,” but hey, that’s right.

I guess what I wish is for the Jazz to give the bat signal somehow if their stars weren’t playing in the game, even if they were healthy. (We asked Butler if he was going to play in Wednesday’s game on Tuesday and he said he would, so it was a surprise not seeing him there.) It was a huge crowd of over 7,000 people hoping to see their favorite players. , and actually did not reach.

Incidentally, the Jazz’s other two-way man, Johnny Juzang, was in a car accident shortly after arriving in Salt Lake City, and is now in the NBA’s concussion protocol. There’s no word on how he’s doing, but since he’s on protocol, it’s a good bet he’s still experiencing concussion symptoms, something he certainly doesn’t want to return from.

2. How much of the Jazz playing style is influenced by Will Hardy?

Instead of interesting players, what about the style of game they’re playing?

I asked Bailey, the Jazz summer league coach, about how much the Jazz summer league style of play will be the direction for the Jazz to move forward.

“Some of that, obviously on defense, is what Will wants to implement during the regular season,” Bailey said. “Some of the plays that we’re calling could have been different last year, could be the same plays that we’re calling different now just for summer league.”

So if the defense holds up going forward, how would Bailey describe that defensive system?

“First of all, just be aggressive, be physical. Changing many ball screens on and off the ball. Getting used to that, I think the most important thing is just our turns: today we were better defensively.”

The Sixers do these three, but the Jazz change the screen; they also have a perimeter player who helps get down into the paint to avoid the pass to the bowling man.

The Jazz weren’t a trade team last year, or at any point in the past eight years. Rudy Gobert was under the Jazz’s helm, and when you sign Gobert, the right thing to do is funnel the plays to him in the paint and have the best defensive player in the world play as big a role as possible. Change doesn’t do that.

But the changes prevent paint penetration in most cases and provide perhaps the clearest way for defenses to stay with offensive players without the need for back-end rotations. Next, the Jazz want players to switch to help in isolation or lockdown situations.

That heralds a very different Jazz system than the one we’re used to. Get ready for that in October.

3. Quick impressions of the players

I’m not sure any of the Jazz summer league players who played tonight have a great chance of making the roster…but they’ll try anyway. Here are some quick initial impressions on some of them.

• Justin Robinson, 24, has spent three up-and-down years in the NBA, including with the Bucks, Pistons and Kings last year as a two-way or 10-day player. He was a very good shooter in college, but so far he is 25-80 at the NBA level. Like most 6-1 players, he struggles the most inside the arc: He has shot just 32% from 2-point range in the NBA. He’s reasonable enough to control the ball and create plays, so it’s not that he’s hopeless, it’s Really he has to adapt his game to find a role in the NBA, and he’ll have to play almost entirely on the perimeter. However, I thought he was the best player on the Jazz tonight.

• Bruno Caboclo, Mr. “Two years from two years,” has been in the NBA for seven seasons, though he played abroad in 2021-22. He’s still ridiculously long, but his body has filled in impressively thick: he’s almost too big now, maybe not stretchy enough. Anyway, the body was not and is not the problem, the problem remains the lack of self-control on the court. He had seven fouls tonight, bending that rule a bit, and added five turnovers in 25 minutes. He was a -15 under on the team, despite some shining moments. We’ll give you this though: he was playing for the Brazilian team and didn’t arrive in Salt Lake City until yesterday, so maybe a little jet lag is to be expected.

• Vic Law was named to last season’s All-NBL First Team, the Australian National Basketball League, along with famed former Perth Wildcats Jazzman Bryce Cotton. Unfortunately, he has so far been grossly outclassed in the Utah Jazz Summer League. A 1-12 FG start against the Thunder wasn’t good Tuesday, and then it looked bad again today, enough to see more of the bench in the second half in favor of James Palmer Jr., who just seems like a better player. However, I hope he continues to rock Australia – being one of Australia’s best players for that league’s historically most successful club in a fantastic country is a great life.

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