Johnny Juzang won’t be blocking out the memory of his NBA debut

“How ’Bout This Jazz” newsletter: Two-way guard’s first pro game had a memorable sequence. Plus, Kris Dunn isn’t impressed by Utah’s snow, and a now-short-handed free-throw competition rolls on.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Johnny Juzang (33) as the Utah Jazz host the San Antonio Spurs, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023.

It was a mostly somber locker room following the Jazz’s loss to the Spurs on Tuesday night. That’ll happen when you’re the team that an opponent snaps its franchise-record 16-game losing streak against.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though.

Johnny Juzang, a rookie guard out of UCLA signed to a two-way contract, got a call-up to the big roster on account of both of the Jazz’s starting guards — Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton — being out injured. And when rookie wing Ochai Agbaji departed with a right lower leg contusion, Juzang not only made his NBA debut, but wound up playing a wholly unexpected 14 minutes and 45 seconds.

He didn’t set the world on fire — he scored 3 points on 1-for-5 shooting and was a minus-21 on the court. But he was thrilled to get a chance.

“I wish we could have closed it out, but it was just a great feeling being out there, just getting an opportunity to compete,” he said.

He wasn’t told whether he’d play at all, but he tried to stay ready. And then coach Will Hardy signaled for him to check in.

“I definitely had some adrenaline pumping, some extra pep in my step,” Juzang acknowledged when asked if there were any nerves stepping onto the court for the first time.

Despite the poor shooting night, he did have a memorable sequence — blocking a reverse layup try by Doug McDermott with 2:49 left in the third quarter, then getting his first NBA points on a 3-pointer a mere seven seconds later off an assist from Rudy Gay.

Which part of that will he remember more, though?

“I like that block,” he said, smiling. “I didn’t shoot it that well, but people give me more credit for my shooting than my defense. So I’ll take the block.”

As someone who’s getting to work his dream job, I love moments like these where you get to see someone else work their dream job, too.

Snowstorm? Not impressed

Despite playing on a 10-day contract to help the Jazz reach the NBA minimum roster spots, Kris Dunn has already had a few big games. He’s been pretty impressive relative to expectations. He’s also been impressed by his new team.

He was less impressed by last week’s allegedly substantial winter snowstorm.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Commuters negotiate snow covered streets in the early hours in the Salt Lake Valley on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.

“I mean, that was easy for me,” he said, laughing. “I’m from the East Coast — Connecticut, Rhode Island, down in the D.C. area; it was a layup to me! You guys said there was a snowstorm, I looked outside, and I’m like, ‘Well, my son could play in that!’”

His son was also with him when he found out he was going from the G League’s Capital City Go-Go to the Jazz.

“My agent called me. It was almost in sync — once your agent calls you, a lot of people hit you up at the same time [because] sometime Twitter beats your agent [with the news],” Dunn said. “… I was with my son, we were out to eat — I had two hours to pack, so we had to cut that short and get ready.”

FT competition — smaller but still going

I’ve written and tweeted a couple of times about the season-long free throw competition between coach Will Hardy, forward Simone Fontecchio, and guard Leandro Bolmaro — the “International Free Throw Federation Championship,” as Hardy referred to it.

With the sparingly-played Bolmaro having asked for and received his release in order to go play in Europe, I wondered if the competition had simply died out.

Nope. Fontecchio, who’s been struggling on the court of late, was happy to discuss a recent bright spot for him.

“Oh, we’re still playing — we’re playing! We’re tied,” Fontecchio said of himself and the coach. “I won today, so you can report that!”

Their competition is now at 7-7, per Fontecchio. Bolmaro apparently had been lagging behind before his departure.

“Leo was lower — he was, like, four,” Fontecchio gleefully disclosed.