Dante Exum was a full participant in Jazz practice for the first time this season on Tuesday, which is a good sign that he could return as soon as Friday.
Exum had been a full participant in practices with the Salt Lake City Stars, as the Jazz sent him there to practice one week ago. Because the Jazz had a game every other day for that period, they rarely went through a full strenuous practice like the Stars did.
“[I’m] feeling really good,” Exum said. “It was good to finally get back on the court with the guys.”
Exum didn’t reveal a targeted date for his return, though all signs point to it being sooner than later. The idea is that Exum begins play at 100%, at peak conditioning and balance levels. The knee injury has essentially been healed for a while now, but it’s about making sure he’s ready to resume play.
“Just continue to get the conditioning up. That’s the most important thing, so I’m not on the back foot and trying to catch up. Going to be ready to go 100 percent from the start,” Exum said. "Conditioning obviously goes down with not being able to run the first three or four months. That’s definitely the hardest. And then you have your sore days. But now I’ve been feeling good and getting on the court and getting up and down the way I want to.”
What will he add to the team upon his return?
“I think the strengths I’ve always brought, just defensively. We’ve been playing really good defense, and I can add to that,” Exum said. “Also, I’m trying to get into the paint as much as possible and find open shooters.”
Simmons goes down, Neto steps up
With Ben Simmons suffering a minor sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder during the first quarter of the game, former Jazz point guard Raul Neto was called upon by Philadelphia to play major point guard minutes.
It was a familiar recipe for Jazz fans, too. Neto brought his usual burst of energy, limited length, and smart passing to over 30 minutes of play for the Sixers. In a game they lost by two, Neto was a plus-9 in plus-minus. He had 11 points, four assists and three steals, though added four turnovers.
“He’s a tough guy. He’s really good, especially when he’s aggressive like that," Jazz point guard Mike Conley said. He’s a guy that doesn’t make many mistakes, shoot the ball when he has to, pick up defensively and just try to get in to you and change the flow of the game. I think that’s what he was able to do.”
Another former Jazz point guard draft pick, Trey Burke, is active and on the Philadelphia roster, but did not play due to coach Brett Brown’s decision.