Oklahoma City • Assignments don’t come any tougher for a small forward than checking Kevin Durant. The Jazz’s DeMarre Carroll, though, will be asked to do it in his first start of the season Friday when the Jazz play the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“He’s another player,” Carroll said. “Another great player. It’s just an opportunity for me to come out here and do what I do best, play defense.”
Carroll gets the call against the Thunder after first-year Jazz forward Marvin Williams was ruled out following a second concussion protocol exam. The NBA’s concussion policy is exhaustive, and requires a player to pass physical and mental tests, which he can’t undergo until he has been headache-free for two days, Jazz trainer Gary Briggs said.
Point guard Mo Williams, who has missed the Jazz’s last three games with a right foot injury, will play.
While Marvin Williams is the Jazz’s preferred matchup against Durant, who is second in the NBA with 26.6 points per game and has led the league in the scoring each of the last three years, coach Tyrone Corbin said the Jazz will resort to defense by committee.
“It’s going to be a few different guys,” he said. “[Durant] is a tremendous player and we’ll have to pay a lot of attention to him, we all will. A few guys will get a good look at him.”
Gordon Hayward will continue to come off the bench. Corbin opted to start Carroll at small forward rather than Hayward, the third-year swing man, to disrupt as little as possible for the Jazz.
“Gordon will play [Durant] some, also,” Corbin said. “But he’s been effective in the role he’s been in and we’ll stay the same in that area.”
That Carroll is the player Corbin beckoned when in need of a replacement for Williams is a testament to how he has turned around his standing with the Jazz in the last month.
He did not play in five of six games for the Jazz before putting together a nearly perfect game on Nov. 16 in Philadelphia, where he scored 17 points. Since then, he has averaged nearly 20 minutes per game and has been a regular contributor for the Jazz, who have won five of their last six games. Carroll averages 6.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and a steal in each outing with the Jazz.
“It just shows the confidence coach has in me now,” Carroll said. That comes with trust and building that confidence and I feel like that’s what I did, when I got my opportunity I just took advantage.”