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Monson: Jazz have survived rash of injuries; now it’s time to get everyone healthy

First Published      Last Updated Apr 06 2017 07:37 pm

The Jazz faced a much-anticipated challenge against the best team in the world on a cold Thursday night in early December, a challenge that was made almost impossible to overcome by circumstances beyond fair competition, circumstances that would change, circumstances that soon would get better.

But they never did, never have. Not yet.

The Jazz lost to Golden State that night, dropping a 106-99 decision. They played hard and swung away at the Warriors and might have defeated them were it not for the bad end of a 29-1 run and the fact that four of their five starters were too injured to suit up.




They played pretty well, all things considered.

Those considerations included Gordon Hayward being out, George Hill being out, Rodney Hood being out and Derrick Favors being out.

As it happened, those considerations were more the norm than any kind of exception. And they set the tone for a season that, unlike the year before, has not been knocked off its track by injuries that came and came again. With four games remaining, the Jazz have embraced their own resilience. They have a good shot at getting 10 more victories than they achieved in 2015-16. They'll finish in the middle of the Western Conference's playoff field. And that's remarkable, considering they could have allowed the injuries to kick them in the …

Asserting themselves, assisting one another, not assuming anything, was the answer.

Jazz players have missed a total of 186 games so far, 157 of them due to injury or illness. And like it was against the Warriors, those missed games haven't just plagued obscure players with little effect on outcomes of games. They've benched vital guys with key roles. Favors has missed 30 games, Hill 31, Hood 22. Alec Burks, once projected to be a big part of the Jazz's rebuild, has missed 35 games. And none of that measures the degree to which injuries compromised those players in games in which they did play.

Think about this: The Jazz have put their preferred starting lineup on the floor just 13 times this season. That blows past the border of ridiculous, straight to lunacy's edge.

And they still might get 50 wins.

Quin Snyder credited two guys in particular for re-floating a ship that might have slipped beneath the waves without them — Rudy Gobert, who has missed just a single game, and Hayward, who bounced back strong after breaking a finger. Each has had the best season of his career — by far. And each has ascended to the upper reaches of the NBA player pantheon.

Observers were high on the Jazz before this season started, but the one knock against the team was the absence of any stars. Now the Jazz have two of them. That transformation already was underway, but it went into hyperdrive over the past five months, Gobert's and Hayward's talent ascending, their competitive determination, too.

Snyder underscored that when he said: "It can be emotionally draining. Every day, you wake up trying to figure out who your teammates are going to be. … That uncertainty is difficult to handle."

Gobert and Hayward have managed. They are the pillars that have held up the Jazz's ceiling, and as everyone knows, in the recent clouded vernacular of Michael Jordan, "the ceiling is the roof."

The ceiling or the roof, either way … Gobert and Hayward have raised it.

Snyder also lauded the players surrounding the two stars who have had shifting roles, depending on those ever-evolving circumstances, aiding the team's cause. Guys like Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson, Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack, Boris Diaw, et al.

As for the Jazz's injured, the players who have been collecting paychecks while hovering somewhere out there in rehab, Snyder concurrently sent a missile of a message at them with neither accusation nor condemnation, but with unvarnished honesty about what their duty is: "The best thing for us is … the guys who are available, play. And the guys who aren't, work their tails to get back."

Snyder was blaming no one for getting or being hurt. He gets it. It happens. And in the cases of some Jazz players, it seems to happen a lot. But he's seen the emotions of his guys who are out there playing drained. He's had his own emotions drained. He's seen the remaining players fighting, just like they did the night the Warriors dusted the shorthanded Jazz in early December. Just the way they have all season long.

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AT A GLANCE

MASH unit

The Jazz’s injury list this season:

Player, Injury Games missed

Alec Burks

Rehabilitation 3

Left ankle debridement 6

Left ankle rehab 25

Boris Diaw

Right leg contusion 8

Dante Exum

Left pateller tendonitis 7

Derrick Favors

Left knee/IT band syndrome 1

Left knee/bone contusion 24

Rehab 1

Left knee/soreness 2

Rudy Gobert

Right leg soreness 1

Gordon Hayward

Finger fracture, left hand 6

Finger, left hand 1

Left quad contusion 1

George Hill

Sprained right thumb 8

Sprained left big toe 13

Lip laceration 3

Left big toe soreness 3

Right groin strain 4

Rodney Hood

Illness 1

Right hamstring strain 3

Flu symptoms 1

Right knee hyper extension 5

Right knee bone contustion 7

Right knee soreness 5

Joe Johnson

Left groin soreness 1

Left groin strain 2

Shelvin Mack

Left ankle sprain 11

Raul Neto

Right groin strain 4

Total 157


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