After making his NBA debut in the Salt Lake City Summer League on Monday night in a frenetic performance that featured 11 points but also eight personal fouls, Jazz power forward Jarrell Brantley conceded there were “definitely a lot of nerves going in, especially when I stepped out there.”
But, he also clarified that night, “A little nerves is always good for me — I like having a little nerves.”
After sitting out Tuesday’s game, there were apparently nerves aplenty for Wednesday’s return to the lineup for both Brantley and fellow second-round pick Miye Oni given how they went out and captivated the Vivint Smart Home Arena crowd in the Jazz’s 84-81 win over the Spurs.
Oni’s seemingly effortless movements contributed to his 17 points and six boards, while Brantley’s rampaging forays downcourt and brute strength helped him finish with 16 points and six rebounds.
Jazz assistant coach Lamar Skeeter, who is heading up the team’s summer league outfit, said that Brantley, Oni, and fellow second-round pick Justin Wright-Foreman (who played Monday and Tuesday but sat out Wednesday) all got better from their initial outings to their follow-ups.
“Some of these guys, they get that first game and it’s a lot — the game’s fast, there’s a lot to think about, there’s a lot going on,” Skeeter said. “So once guys can get that first game under their belt, generally the second game is a little better for them.”
Certainly neither Brantley nor Oni was lacking for confidence in the finale.
Brantley started the game with a designed 3-pointer off a screen — a shot that was too strong and offline to the right, and which smacked off the backboard. Undaunted, on the ensuing Spurs possession, the 6-foot-7, 250-pounder grabbed a defensive rebound, took off downcourt, went coast to coast, missed the inside shot, but fought for the rebound and drew the foul.
Just before the five-minute mark of the opening period, Brantley drove left across the lane and threw down a swooping southpaw jam, eliciting a chorus of appreciative ohhhhhhhhs from the crowd.
“There’s a lot more space out here than in college, so I know if I can get a step … I like going left — I don’t think I should tell people that! — but I know if I can get a step, I feel like I can attack the rim,” he said. “I got a chance to show my athleticism.”
In the second quarter, Brantley drilled a trey from the right corner, held his follow-through aloft, and blew a kiss to the sky. In the fourth, he drained a stepback triple and blew on his fingertips.
Oni was considerably less demonstrative but no less effective.
After a relatively anonymous 0-for-3 effort Monday, he was definitively different from the outset Wednesday. In the game’s first 4 minutes, he’d swished a pair of 3-pointers and finished off a coast-to-coast drive with an acrobatic layup. A few minutes later, he drained another deep shot to wrap up his opening period with 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting.
Late in the second quarter, the wing from Yale came flying in for a weakside rejection of a layup attempt, then snagged the rebound. A few plays later, he broke up a 2-on-1 fast break by getting his hands in the passing lane.
“I was a little passive in Game 1, I felt like I was trying to let the game come to me — maybe a little too much,” Oni said. “So I wanted to take the opportunities I had tonight within the offense and just play good team basketball.”
Big man Willie Reed, who is hoping to make the transition from the G League to the NBA, had a strong performance, taking over late in the fourth quarter and keeping Utah ahead with strong glasswork and a pair of putback dunks. He finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds.
Grizzlies 81, Cavaliers 68
Keenan Evans came off Memphis’ bench to score 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, as Memphis sent Cleveland to a winless 0-3 record in the Salt Lake City Summer League. Former Jazz player Naz Mitrou-Long again led the Cavs, totaling 12 points and six rebounds. Cleveland shot just 36.7% for the game.