Jazz guard Dante Exum gets OK for non-contact basketball activities

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder and Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum (11) as the Utah Jazz host Maccabi Haifa, preseason NBA basketball at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City Wednesday October 4, 2017.

Sacramento, Calif. • The Utah Jazz received a bit of good news in the middle of the toughest stretch of their season.

Point guard Dante Exum, who has yet to play a game this season, has been cleared to participate in non-contact basketball activities, meaning he can work out, shoot and work with assistants.

The Jazz still haven’t given an official return date, but league sources tell The Tribune that Exum hopes to come back following the All-Star break. Exum originally separated his shoulder against the Phoenix Suns in the preseason. He damaged ligaments in his shoulder and underwent surgery to repair the injury.

“It’s really good to see him out there,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I was talking to Dante and he told me he feels like a basketball player again. So it’s definitely good to see him on the floor.”

Exum worked on different drills with assistant coach Lamar Skeeter following Utah’s shootaround Wednesday in Sacramento. He first worked on finishing layups with his off-hand then worked on footwork as he drove to the basket off the dribble. And finally Exum and Skeeter did full-court work before getting up shots.

Snyder stopped the workout at one point to give Exum pointers.

The workout wasn’t huge in the grand scheme, but Exum being on the floor served as a positive.

The Jazz have missed Exum’s presence more than anyone could’ve predicted. His defense, athleticism as well as his size and length for the position have been lacking.

If Exum can make it back before the end of the season, the Jazz can gather much-needed data on where he’s at physically. That’s important because Exum will be a restricted free agent this summer, and the Jazz have to make a decision on his next contract.

Exum was the fifth pick in the 2014 NBA draft, but he has had bad injury luck in his four-year career. But he’s still only 22 years old, and the Jazz still see him as an important piece of their future.

Familiar face faces Jazz

The Jazz faced George Hill for the first time this season. Last season, Hill had arguably the best season of his career as Utah’s starting point guard. He missed 47 games, but when he was healthy he played at a high level.

Hill is averaging 10.2 points and 2.7 assists per game this season, compared to over 16 ppg. last season with Utah. Hill is sharing time with rookie guard De’Aaron Fox as well this season.

Still, Snyder said he has fond memories of what Hill provided last season and what that team was able to accomplish with him.

“He was a leader for us,” Snyder said. “He’s doing a lot of the same stuff for them. He gives them a lot.”

Another reunion, too

Jazz center Ekpe Udoh and Kings rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic played together last season for Fenerbahce and won a EuroBasket title together. Bogdanovic has been a revelation for the Kings as their starting small forward. He’s averaging 11 points and three assists per game.