Since his shoulder injury which could potentially set him back a whole season, Dante Exum has been reshaping his mindset to jump into his rehabilitation. While the Jazz don’t know yet when he’ll be able to return, the message to him has been to be as aggressive in his recovery as he was in his impressive offseason.
How to replace Exum? Well, that’s something the Jazz are still trying to figure out.
The team has a rock-solid starter in place in Ricky Rubio, but there is not yet a second set point guard. Coach Quin Snyder suggested at least initially, that’s how things might remain: The Jazz aren’t opposed to having a lot of different players bring the ball up the floor.
Raul Neto, Joe Ingles and Alec Burks have all brought the ball up the floor in the past. Donovan Mitchell, who was chiefly a shooting guard at Louisville, is getting some of those responsibilities as well in the preseason, in part because the Jazz believe he can defend the position well.
But Snyder would rather not put all the pressure on one player.
“There‘s a lot of guys that I think have the capability to add something,” Snyder said. “There’s a plan that has a lot of different options to it. There will continue to be a plan based on what we see throughout the course of the season. I don’t think it behooves us at this point to just say, ‘This is the guy.’”
Snyder acknowledged that the “guy who is trained” at the position is Neto, who has missed the last two games with quad tightness, but now seems to see his role elevating with Exum out for at least a few months.
Neto said he’s worked on his fitness this offseason, as well as defending larger players at the position. While the Brazilian guard said it’s been troubling to see Exum injured, he’s stepped into larger roles before: He started 53 games during his 2015-16 rookie year.
“Just being ready, always being ready,” he said. “Of course it’s a sad situation to have a teammate have a bad injury, and suddenly after Dante was having a great preseason. It’s pretty sad, but I think for me, it’s just being ready and taking advantage of all opportunities I have.”
Elsewhere on the floor, the Jazz will rest starting center Rudy Gobert for their Monday night tip against the Phoenix Suns on the road. It’s possible others starters may rest for the second game against the Suns in four days, or that they may only play a half.
With a televised game in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Tuesday, Snyder said he’s trying to adjust for the rare preseason back-to-back.
“In this case, Rudy’s played every game [so far],” he said. “We feel like it’s a good game for him to rest. The other guys, we’ll see how the game goes. We don’t want to sit everybody one night, then play everybody another night.”