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Every minute counts for Utah Jazz's Enes Kanter

Published July 12, 2012 7:17 pm

NBA • Kanter seeing his confidence increase with his playing time.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Orlando, Fla. • Three games. No domination. But progress.

That's the book on second-year Jazz center Enes Kanter thus far during Summer League.

Kanter recorded 12 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds Wednesday during Utah's 79-75 win against the Orlando Magic inside Amway Center. He displayed increased confidence in the low post, showing off quick spin-and-turn moves. His lateral movement has improved, as has his willingness to jump out and set high screens or catch an unsuspecting defending point guard with a hard shoulder before the ball crosses midcourt.

Kanter also blew a wide-open fast-break dunk, was blocked on an inside slam attempt, and acknowledged after the game he put on about 20 pounds in two weeks after the 2011-12 season ended, during a getaway vacation to Turkey.

"In America, I only eat American food," Kanter said. "I was there and my mom cooked, so I just ate my Turkish food. But now I'm trying to lose weight; I'm trying to get in shape. I know I'll be so much better when I keep playing."

That's been clear in Orlando.

Simply being part of the Jazz's Summer League team has been a step forward for the No. 3 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. While Kanter exceeded expectations as an unproven 19-year-old rookie, his advancement was limited by the lockout, an abbreviated training camp and the canceled 2011 Summer League, all of which followed a lost freshman year at Kentucky.

Now, the 20-year-old Kanter has a 66-game NBA season and a playoff run in his possession. And while he's still graded by critical-eyed scouts and doubted by some, the ability to rack up 28 minutes in a Summer League is crucial to Kanter's development.

During the regular season, Utah's center of the future backs up Al Jefferson, whose $15 million expiring contract is balanced with his 2011-12 average of 19.2 points and 9.6 rebounds. For the Jazz to feel comfortable with the idea of either unloading Jefferson or allowing him to walk after the 2012-13 campaign, Kanter must show real promise this season. Consistent minutes and increased production during Summer League are the first steps of a multi-point checklist.

"He's ahead of schedule [despite] what people say. It's just everybody wants instant gratification," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said. "We talked about it being a two- or three-year deal, and that's where we're at. We're patient with it. Now, that doesn't mean we're not going to push him. But it's part of the process."

Monday was a disappointment for Kanter. He showed rust, lacked energy and was outplayed by Detroit rookie Andre Drummond. But during Kanter's last two games, he's combined for 22 points and 20 rebounds, and his 8.3 average on the boards ranks third in Summer League.

There haven't been any signs of real domination. Some of his best offensive post moves have resulted in turnovers, personal fouls or blocked shots. But Kanter's more confident than he ever was last season, he's beginning to understand the rhythm of the NBA game, and he's been a magnet around the glass since Day One. For a 20-year-old still mastering a new language and a new world, the Jazz will take it.

"At the beginning of [last] season, Jefferson was telling me to, 'Do this. Do this.' I still didn't kind of understand because I wasn't playing," said Kanter, who averaged 4.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 13.2 minutes in 66 games (no starts) in 2011-12. "Now, I understand what they're trying to tell me. When I play minutes, I'm getting more used to moves and games and everything. … Coming up year, I'm going to be so much better."

Notes • Alec Burks' team-high 15 points topped the Jazz (2-1). Burks' 18.7 average points ranks third among all scorers. … Jeremy Evans made his Summer League debut, recording 13 points and nine rebounds. … DeMarre Carroll (sprained left ankle) didn't play but said he could be active Thursday. … Jazz guard Earl Watson watched the game from the bench. Watson said he began jogging Wednesday, plans to resume basketball activities in August, and hopes to be at 100 percent health for the start of training camp. … Utah assistant Jeff Hornacek coached Wednesday's game against the Magic. He continues to be a candidate for Orlando's head coaching job. … The Jazz's trade of Devin Harris for Marvin Williams was made official Wednesday.

bsmith@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz —

Storylines Jazz 79, Orlando 75

R Utah's Enes Kanter records 12 points and 12 rebounds.

• Kanter scores six points and collects six boards during a third quarter that sees the Jazz outscore the Magic 23-18. —

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Kanter in the Summer League

Opp Min Pts Reb

Magic 28:32 12 12

76ers 26:48 10 8

Pistons 28:15 3 5