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Ricky Rubio is out tonight. Dante Exum is out tonight. And so, starting at point guard standing 6-foot-1 … in his fourth season out of Belo Horizonte, Brazil … Raul Neto.
He’s only played in 18 games this season, and he’s only averaged 10.9 minutes in those games (a figure skewed by his 30 minutes of emergency action against the Bucks on Monday night), but he’ll be expected to carry the load against the Magic, and going forward, until those others return.
“He’s been staying ready since the beginning of the year,” Derrick Favors said at morning shootaround at Zions Bank Basketball Center. “… Pretty sure with Ricky and Dante out, he’s gonna play — who knows, 20, 30, 40 minutes. You never know. I think he’s ready and he’s gonna come out and have a great game for us.”
Coach Quin Snyder reinforced the idea that Neto is prepared for the increased workload and has the full confidence of the team.
“It’s a more substantial role, he’s going to be playing more minutes. He’s prepared himself for that with his time here,” Snyder said. “I’m very proud of the improvement Raul’s made since he’s been with us. Raul has been someone [that] you feel grateful as a coach and as a teammate that you’ve got him on your side. … He knows how to play, his teammates believe in him, we believe in him.”
For his part, Neto said that while he didn’t envision additional playing time coming in this fashion, he’s prepared to make the most of his chance.
“When you’re not playing, you want to play. How I got the opportunity is, of course, not the way I wanted; I didn’t want all of my teammates to get injured and then me get minutes,” Neto said. “It is what it is, and I have to be ready, so it feels good to be out there playing.”
Week in review
• Exum, Rubio, and Thabo Sefolosha are going to be out for a little bit. Exum has a sprained ankle. As for the other two, MRIs confirmed they both have right hamstring strains. [TRIB]
• No, it’s not the All-Star break yet, but it is the literal midway point of the regular season for the Jazz. So then, after 41 games, what do we know? Andy Larsen reviews the best and worst of the season’s first half. [TRIB]
• Quin Snyder worked with Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer both in the Spurs organization and more directly with the Hawks. Bud is a frontrunner for Coach of the Year, but this week he called his former assistant “one of the best coaches in the league.” [TRIB]
• Derrick Favors still starts the majority of games, but Jae Crowder actually plays about four more minutes a game. What could be an awkward situation has instead been two players giving up a bit of themselves for the good of the team. [TRIB]
• Much has been made of Donovan Mitchell’s second-year struggles. Columnist Gordon Monson notes that, which the Jazz’s limited scoring options, Mitchell must excel in order for the team to succeed. [TRIB]
• The Jazz traded Rodney Hood to Cleveland last season and Alec Burks to the Cavs this past November. They saw them both for the first time a few days ago. Both players told me that while they were surprised to be dealt, they’re helping each other make the best of it now. [TRIB]
• Arguably the biggest Jazz story of the past week was the revelation that ticket prices for next season will see a dramatic increase. Andy breaks down the what and the why of it all. [TRIB]
• Another highly-regarded coach was praising Snyder this week. Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News spoke to Snyder’s college coach, Mike Krzyzewski, who gave his thoughts on how his former player is doing in leading a team. [Des News]
• The website SLCdunk.com has a podcast called “SLC Punks.” OK, then. Anyway, the latest installment takes a look at the Jazz’s injury situation and what, if anything, the team might do about it. [SLC Dunk]
• Just as the Jazz remain invested in the development of Dante Exum, so too do Jazz fans. KSL.com’s Ryan Miller took another look at the point guard’s progress (before his sprained ankle, anyway). [KSL]
• Former @tribjazz Aaron Falk, now a feature writer for utahjazz.com, tells the moving story of Janet Wootton, a longtime Jazz season ticket-holder who died of cancer, but in her will, left her sizable collection of memorabilia to the team to be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to cancer research. [Utah Jazz]
• When Thunder guard Russell Westbrook smacked a water bottle off a scorer’s table, someone noted that he went “full Gobert.” This, of course, prompted Rudy to go to social media and share his thoughts. [Twitter]
• The Jazz announced the latest installment in center Ekpe Udoh’s “Ekpe’s Book Club” series, with an “Author Talks” event set to take place Jan. 17 at Zions Bank Basketball Campus. Udoh will host Camron Wright, author of “The Rent Collector,” for a Q&A and book signing session. Interested parties must sign up. [Event Brite]
• Tony Jones, another former @tribjazz who now writes for The Athletic, takes a look at the Jazz’s suddenly shaky point guard situation and how they’ll adjust with both Rubio and Exum missing some time. (Note: Content from The Athletic requires either a trial sign-up or a subscription to read.) [Athletic]
Quote of the week
Before the Bucks game, several media members were wondering who on the Jazz would get the assignment to guard the highly unique Giannis Antetokounmpo. It wound up falling to Rudy. And while Giannis did score 30 points, Rudy held him 13-for-30 shooting. Afterward, Rudy was initially coy in describing the experience, but ultimately acknowledged how challenging it was:
“It was fun, it was fun. He was going at me, and I had to guard him. It was fun,” Gobert said. “… He’s very long, he’s very athletic. And when he’s going at you, you gotta meet him early. If he gets a head of steam and he’s taking off on you, he’s pretty hard to stop. You gotta be aware of him. He hit some tough shots, but after that, we did a pretty good job.”
Much of the Jazz’s road schedule is in the rearview, meaning there will be a bunch of games upcoming at Vivint Smart Home Arena, including the next four, eight of the next nine, and 12 of the next 15. It starts tonight against the Orlando Magic, at 7 p.m.. This homestead will also a Friday, 8 p.m. game vs. the Lakers, a Saturday, 8 p.m. contest vs. the Bulls, and a Monday, 7 p.m. rematch vs. the Pistons.