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Considering the Lakers have been managing LeBron James’ “load management” of late, often sitting him out on the second half of back-to-back sets, L.A. taking on the Wizards on Tuesday night is potentially bad news for him stepping on the court at Vivint Smart Home Arena tonight against the Jazz.
Regardless, his presence was felt Wednesday morning at Jazz shootaround at Zions Bank Basketball Campus. Though he remains something of a lightning rod among fans and pundits, the two Jazz players who were teammates with James on the Cavaliers — Kyle Korver and Jae Crowder — had nothing but good things to say about him.
“Being with him for a couple years and watching him work, watching how much he cares, watching him be a great teammate, there is a level of respect for him and how he approaches life that you can’t not have, being his teammate,” Korver said. “There’s a whole lot that comes with it, and it’s not for everybody, but I got to play in two Finals with him, win a lot of playoff games, be the recipient of a lot of a lot of passes, and build a great friendship with him — memories and a relationship that I’ll take with me forever.”
Crowder, when asked about James, initially joked, “Yeah, I’m about to text him and see if he’s playing,” before calling him “a great guy” and praising him for his leadership.
“Playing alongside him, I took that away from him, just how he’s accountable each and every day, how he makes himself accountable for each and every game,” Crowder said. “It speaks of who he is, and it’s no coincidence where he’s at in his career at this point. I have much respect for LeBron and what he brings to the game of basketball.”
While James is often criticized for the perception of how he treats some fellow players, Korver said actually being around the future Hall of Famer paints a different picture. He also commended him for dealing with an impossible level of scrutiny.
“He’s a great teammate. He really cares about people, he cares about doing the right things,” Korver said. “It’s amazing — with all the hype that’s been around him, he’s lived up to it and then some. … OK, we’re not all perfect, but we’re nitpicking [him]. We’re looking at his body language, or we’re looking at how he handles himself, how he treats people, how he approaches his craft. You can’t do anything but respect him — and so I do.”
In case you missed it …
It’s been a very Donovan Mitchell-centric kind of week. For starters, on Tuesday at the Gateway shopping mall downtown, just a short distance from Vivint Smart Home Arena, a bridge and mural were dedicated to the second-year guard. In last week’s trip to Atlanta, he presented a $25,000 check to the daughter of one of his elementary school teachers, so she can finish her studies. Before that, in his return to his native New York, he had several hundred family members and friends come out to see him play at Madison Square Garden.
Of course, there’s been plenty of other Jazz goings-on. For instance, them having the fifth-best offensive rating in the league post-All-Star break. Is it just the easy closing schedule, or is something really working? Also, this year’s closing stretch can’t match last year’s 29-6 run, but it’s still been really good. Along the way, Rudy Gobert set the NBA single-season record for dunks. Meanwhile, some basketball player of local renown named Jimmy … Jimbo … Jimmer — that’s it! — Jimmer Fredette returned to Utah and was the biggest deal you’ve ever seen from someone who shot 1 for 10 in a game. There was another player who used to be a big deal in these parts in the news, too, as ex-Jazz center Al Jefferson announced he was retired from the NBA and joining the Big 3 league.
Other people’s stuff
• When the Jazz faced the Hawks last week, much was made of Mitchell going up against rookie sensation Trae Young. Mitchell told Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News that he believes Young should win this season’s Rookie of the Year award.
• With Dante Exum out again, Raul Neto is getting some extra opportunities again. He told Ryan Miller of KSL.com that he’s taking advantage of it by simply being ready to go whenever.
• Royce O’Neale got some love in ESPN.com’s weekly “Ten things I like and don’t like” feature by Zach Lowe. O’Neale checks in at No. 6 on the list, in which Lowe praises him for his decisive aggressiveness in attacking scrambling defenses.
• Custom shoe designed Kickstradomis partnered with the Jazz to create some unique sneakers for the Autism Awareness Night event that will take place at tonight’s game. They will all subsequently be auctioned off for charity. You can check them out here.
• Aaron Falk of utahjazz.com spoke with rookie guard Grayson Allen, who is embracing his latest stint in the G League as an opportunity to play and develop his game.
• The Athletic’s Tony Jones revisited all the intriguing subplots of Monday’s win over the Suns, from JimmerMania to intentional foul-gate.
• Woodyard, of the D-News, also had a cool feature on the Jazz’s good-vibes third-string center, Ekpe Udoh, who is arguably the most fascinating character on the entire roster.
As I may have mentioned before, the Jazz are taking on the Lakers tonight at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Tipoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. to accommodate the ESPN broadcast. After that, they have two more games as part of this homestand — Friday against the Wizards, then next Monday vs. the Hornets. Wednesday of next week, they’re back in Phoenix for more Jimmer & Booker.