Memphis • Something happened Saturday that hadn’t yet occurred two games and one quarter into the Utah Jazz’s season.
With Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors in the game, Jazz center Al Jefferson stepped to the scorer’s table and checked in with 4:36 remaining in the second quarter of the Jazz’s eventual 110-100 loss in San Antonio. But Jefferson didn’t replace one of the Jazz’s other two big men.
Instead, a guard came off the floor to make way for Jefferson, moving Millsap, who starts at power forward for the Jazz, to small forward.
It was the strongest sign yet from coach Tyrone Corbin that the 1-2 Jazz, who play Monday at Memphis, can’t afford not to have Favors on the floor and that the issue of how to manage the minutes, particularly in the frontcourt, may not be one that ever falls into place, but will continue to be made up of odd quirks and new combinations.
“[Favors] was playing well enough, he was really effective on the defensive end and we needed some stops,” Corbin said. “We needed him on the floor at that time.”
In the Jazz frontcourt, and throughout a loaded roster, figuring out the rotation isn’t as simple as who backs up whom, and it may not ever be entirely sorted out, barring a trade that clears the logjam.
Corbin couldn’t afford to sacrifice Favors’ defense, and with the Jazz down 19, he couldn’t go any longer without Jefferson’s offense.
Corbin has cautioned that it’s too early to read into the Jazz’s rotation, but at this point at least one thing is clear: Second-year guard Alec Burks, through three games, is the biggest casualty of the Jazz’s depth. The former lottery pick has played 2 minutes and 16 seconds after averaging 16 minutes per game last year. Randy Foye and Jamaal Tinsley have split the minutes at the backup guard positions.
Earlier this week, Corbin said he didn’t want players to have to worry about guessing when and if they might be going in, but given the many options the Jazz have, it may be tough for anyone to know what will happen.
For some, particularly Millsap, the real mystery may be at which position they’re asked to play.
“I’ve been here seven years,” Millsap said. “So I know how to play [in this system] from any position. So, if I get stuck out there then I’m able to adjust to it.”
The flip side of playing Jefferson, Favors and Millsap together is that it comes at the expense of established players at the small-forward position, including Marvin Williams and DeMarre Carroll.
Carroll played a season-low 6:10 on Saturday.
“I can’t worry about that now,” Carroll said. “I just worry about learning and playing well. ... Coach, he’s the coach, and he makes the decision.”
Favors and Enes Kanter have both made strong cases for more playing time, but thus far have been relegated to the bench behind Millsap and Jefferson.
However, playing Millsap at the “3” spot doesn’t seem to be a long-term solution, rather a tweak that could work in spot situations.
For the final 4:26 of the second quarter, the Jazz went with a lineup of Favors, Millsap, Jefferson, Gordon Hayward and Mo Williams. The Jazz outscored the Spurs only 16-15 in that span, but had perhaps their most consistent stretch of the game. At one point, they scored on five straight possessions.
“We’re still working on some things,” Corbin said. “It’s going to be a work in progress for a while, we’ll see what we have.”
• Through three games, the Jazz’s rotation is as much a mystery as ever.
• In the second quarter Saturday in San Antonio, Paul Millsap played nearly five minutes at small forward.
• Alec Burks, after playing 16 minutes a game last year, has played in only one game for the Jazz.
Jazz at Grizzlies
P FedEx Forum (Memphis, Tenn.)
Tipoff • Monday, 6 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM/97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 1-2; Grizzlies 1-1
Season series • First matchup
About the Jazz • The Jazz are trying to avoid going 0-3 on their first road trip of the season. ... Mo Williams scored a season-best 29 points on Saturday in San Antonio. ... The Jazz return home to play the Lakers on Wednesday.
About the Grizzlies • Small forward Rudy Gay leads Memphis with 21.5 points per game. ... Lionel Hollins is entering his fifth season as the head coach of the Grizzlies and is 140-133 in that time. ... The Grizzlies split their first two games of the season, losing to the Clippers and beating Golden State.