Oakland, Calif. • On Tuesday night, Thabo Sefolosha had a bag of ice resting on his knee following Utah’s loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Sefolosha had not played — a coaching decision. But he wasn’t recovering. He was preparing.
Coach Quin Snyder talked to the 12th-year wing prior to his DNP against the Nuggets, telling Sefolosha he wanted him ready to take on the Golden State Warriors on the second night of the road back-to-back. So while Sefolosha didn’t play on Tuesday, he was in the starting lineup Wednesday night.
Snyder has used that tactic before with Sefolosha, who has three DNPs this season, and it seems likely he’ll go to it again based on what he told media prior to the tipoff with the Warriors.
“I’d rather let Thabo know tonight is his game so he is able to prepare mentally that he’s going to start the game rather than go into the game wondering if he is going to play 24 minutes or four minutes,” he said. “It says a lot about Thabo. It takes an incredible amount of self-confidence and also humility to be able to not just accept, but embrace a situation like the one we have right now.”
The situation is a logjam at power forward: Sefolosha came to the Jazz envisioned as a second-unit wing, but injury in the front court and a glut at the wings are leading Utah to use him more as a small-ball forward.
That puts him in direct contention with Jonas Jerebko and Joe Johnson for minutes. Jerebko has been an energetic rebounder and floor spacer. Johnson, when healthy, is seen as a strong-willed offensive player who can score in isolation.
Along with Sefolosha as a defensive quarterback of sorts, Snyder has need for all those skill sets. But he doesn’t need them every night.
“We’ve got three guys who we can trust: They’re all very different players, and from a coaching standpoint, it’s hard,” Snyder said. “It’s almost like in baseball where you play a right-hander against a left-handed pitcher. That’s not gonna happen all the time. We’re going to try to use those guys in a way that can be most effective.”
Neto still in recovery
While the Jazz would welcome point guard help, it’s clear they aren’t rushing along third-year guard Raul Neto.
The Brazilian missed his ninth game Wednesday with what the Jazz have described as concussion symptoms. He’s been out since a Dec. 9 game against Milwaukee, when he collided with Thon Maker. He’s traveled with the team since then, but has been mostly restricted to the training table during his recovery.
“He’s getting better,” Snyder said. “You always want it to be quicker than it is. There’s things like this that you can’t rush. It’s one day at a time, to hit the cliche, but that’s where it’s at.”
There was positive injury news on Wednesday: Aside from nine stitches over his left eyebrow, two-way player Naz Mitrou-Long suffered few ill effects from his collision with Trey Lyles against Denver. He was available against the Warriors.
Steph Curry sat out with an ankle injury. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said the two-time All-Star will scrimmage on Thursday.