If you’ve been paying attention to the Jazz’s lineup rotations of late, you’ve noticed that Quin Snyder has started giving some of Emmanuel Mudiay’s minutes to Rayjon Tucker these past couple games.
My Trib colleague Andy Larsen’s latest “Triple Team” included some excellent explanation and analysis of what Tucker brings to the floor offensively — though Tucker himself went on to disagree with some of that.
What I found interesting about Tucker playing was hearing Snyder’s explanation afterward of what he was looking for from the rookie, and how it was more defense-centric.
“We thought there was a matchup possibility with him and Ja Morant,” Snyder said. “The foul trouble, and Royce [O’Neale] getting a little banged up there in the first half kind of changed the course of the game, but his ability to pressure the ball … we had him guard Ish Smith earlier in the year when we played Washington, and so I think his versatility as a defender is something that can help us.”
Interestingly, while Tucker has mainly been a topic of discussion among Jazz fans for his athleticism and his willingness to launch open 3s, it was his defensive prowess that his new Jazz teammates first noticed all the way back in December when he joined the team from the Wisconsin Herd.
“He’s a defender, I’ll start off with that. He’s a guy who’s tenacious, who works hard — similar to how Royce [O’Neale] came in and really worked hard, prides himself on the defensive end,” Donovan Mitchell said at the time.
The Ingles-Zoolander connection
I’ve got a brother who’s prone to quoting lines from the movie “Zoolander” in pretty much any conversation: A “center for ants” here, an “orange mocha frappuccino” there, etc., etc.
I do not share his glowing affinity for the film. Which made it all the more weird when Joe Ingles passing up a few first-quarter shots on Wednesday prompted me to mutter under my breath, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”
Joe’s reluctance to shoot — in the bubble, at other points this season, for his entire career, really — is nothing new; Andy even pointed it out to Tucker in their Twitter exchange: “Until that moment you were reluctant to take open shots. (BTW, it’s not just you we have this criticism of... ask Joe).”
Of course, Joe did eventually eschew his reluctance, burying six triples and scoring a crucial 25 points in the win. But, for what it’s worth, it’s not just fans and media begging Ingles to shoot more on a regular basis. While his teammates acknowledge he’s a brilliant passer and playmaker, they also know that he’s got more than just one look, that his shooting can be a valuable weapon, too.
“We tell him all the time we want him to be aggressive, we want him to shoot the open shot,” Mike Conley said after the win over the Grizzlies. “… We’ve just got to continue to give him opportunities, continue to look at him at different points of the game and say, ‘Hey, Joe it’s on you; you got it,’ and let him go, because he’s a big piece, especially with Bojan [Bogdanovic] being out.”
Royce agreed: “Joe, every game, we tell him to shoot even when he’s not making any shots.”
Far too common
When Snyder joined the Zoom call with media prior to the Memphis game, I was first in the queue and let him know that, for a change, my question had nothing to do with basketball. I wanted to know his thoughts on Donovan’s article in The Players’ Tribune, in which he recalled an encounter with police in Louisville in which he and teammates apparently did nothing wrong, but the white cop who pulled them over let them know he was only letting them go because he was a fan of Rick Pitino.
Snyder’s response shouldn’t be surprising to anyone at this point, but I suspect it still is to too many people: “Everybody on our team has had experience in those situations on various levels.”
Think about that. If you’re still of the notion that such occurrences are only isolated incidents, if you really can’t understand why these guys are “bringing politics into sports,” you’ve got to get your head out of the sand.
If you haven’t done so already, give Donovan’s story a read. Open your heart, open your mind, and try to put yourself in the shoes of what people of color experience in this country all too often.