Like his teammates, Dante Exum will be in Los Angeles on Oct. 24.
But while the Utah Jazz prepare to play the Clippers at Staples Center, Exum will be going under the knife.
The team announced Monday that the 22-year-old point guard and former lottery draft pick will undergo surgery for his separated left shoulder — his second major surgery in three seasons. While the Jazz have not yet provided a timeline for Exum’s recovery, it is likely to set him back most, if not all, of the upcoming season, which begins Wednesday.
Exum injured his shoulder Oct. 6 against Phoenix, when he landed awkwardly after a midair collision with Suns forward T.J. Warren. For the last week, Utah and Exum sought various medical opinions on whether to address the issue with surgical or non-surgical means.
Depending on his prognosis, surgery means that Exum could miss his second full season in three years since being picked by the Jazz in 2014. He sat out the 2015-16 season with an ACL injury.
With career averages of 5.4 points and 2.1 assists per game, Exum was expected to fill a major role as Utah’s backup point guard this year, and his absence likely opens the door for more minutes for Raul Neto and Donovan Mitchell.
While the team did not reach an extension of Exum’s rookie contract this week (increasing the likelihood that he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer), he has been present in the last few Jazz practices. Over the weekend, coach Quin Snyder expressed confidence in his ability to come back from yet another severe injury.
“More than anything, wherever this injury goes, I think he’s ready to attack it,” he said. “Whenever they make a decision about how to proceed, whatever decision that is, he’ll be aggressive and committed to the recovery process.”
O’Neale in, Bolomboy out in final roster cuts
Royce O’Neale flashed his perfectly intact pearly whites several times after practice on Monday morning. Throughout training camp, they haven’t always been that way.
Twice in the last month, the 24-year-old wing has had the same front tooth knocked out while on the court — once in practice and once in an exhibition (then, he spit it into his hand and kept running the floor). But after a few dental visits, his teeth are all there. And now, he’s got plenty of reason to smile.
O’Neale has appeared to make the cut for the final 15-man roster, after offering depth at the guard and wing positions throughout the preseason. His success comes at the cost of Joel Bolomboy, a former Weber State star and 2016 second-round draft pick, who was officially waived by the Jazz on Monday morning.
“I think positionally, he’s a fit for our group right now,” Snyder said. “His competitiveness, his feel for the game; ability to pass, shoot and dribble; and defensively, he’s got good instincts defensively coupled with the toughness.”
The Jazz roster now stands at 17 players, which includes two-way contracts with forward Eric Griffin and guard Nate Wolters, who will likely start their seasons with the G-League affiliate Salt Lake City Stars.
Making the Jazz roster completes an uphill climb for O’Neale, who spent the first two years of his career out of Baylor overseas. He most recently played for Gran Canaria in Spain, where the Jazz took note of his all-around skill set. He was among the top players at his position in rebound percentage, assist percentage and defensive rating.
O’Neale complimented the Jazz coaching staff for helping develop his skills in camp, but also said the team asked him to be the kind of player he was in Europe if he wanted to make the roster. That dream became a reality for O’Neale on Monday.
“Just sticking and focusing on my dream since I was a little kid,” he said. “Each year playing professionally, getting better and better.”
Bolomboy, a 6-foot-9 forward who was the Big Sky Player of the Year in 2016, played in 12 games for the Jazz last season, averaging 2.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in 4.4 minutes. He played much of the year with the Jazz G-League affiliate Salt Lake City Stars, averaging 16.4 points and 13.2 rebounds.
Cutting Bolomboy doesn’t mean that the Jazz will stop paying him: His $1.3 million in salary for the season is guaranteed. Bolomboy is expected to clear waivers as soon as Tuesday and potentially sign with another NBA team or G-League team. A new NBA rule preventing G-League franchises from signing players with guaranteed salaries from their NBA affiliates will ensure that Bolomboy will not rejoin the Stars this year.
Bolomboy’s departure means the Jazz no longer have any players added via the 2016 draft. Fellow draft picks Marcus Paige and Tyrone Wallace are no longer in the Jazz organization, and point guard George Hill, whom the Jazz traded picks to acquire, left in free agency this summer after the team traded for Ricky Rubio.
Rubio doing good
If you follow Ricky Rubio on social media, you’ve probably glimpsed him packing up water and canned goods for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. Or maybe you’ve seen in his bio a link to a charity he partners with to help end lung cancer.
For a long time, Rubio has held a reputation for his charity work, and Utah is getting a taste of it.
“I just want to learn about the new community,” he said. “I want to help this community as much as I can. It’s great for me to help, not just because I help them, I help myself, too. When I go out there and do things I’m not used to, I see people’s faces happier, that will drive me as a person.”
Rubio also announced Monday that he will run a basketball academy in Farmington in November and December.
It’s worth noting that the past month has been a tumultuous one for Spain. Since Rubio got Eurobasket bronze with his countrymen roughly a month ago, his home province of Catalonia has been embroiled in political turmoil over a bid for independence. This past week, Northern Spain has been rocked by wildfires, which Rubio tweeted about on Sunday night.
“It’s tough when things happen at home and you’re not able to be there to support your friends and family,” he said. “The only thing I can do from here is try to support them and do all I can.”
Point guard Raul Neto, who has been dealing with leg tightness, participated in several segments of practice on Monday.