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Posts Tagged ‘Rudy Gobert’

The Utah Jazz are unquestionably a worse team on July 8th than they were on June 30th. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, they will be a worse team in 2017-18 than they were in 2016-17. The Jazz lost their best player, but they did not lose their most valuable one. There’s a difference, and that difference will stabalize the franchise for the next 4 years.

An organization’s most valuable player and leader imposes his will on his team’s style of play. The 2016-17 Utah Jazz battled through injuries to win 51 games and advanced to the NBA’s second round as a top-notch defensive-minded group that suffocated teams defensively and on the boards while scoring and executing efficiently if not proficiently. That signature belongs more to the playing style of Rudy Gobert than the since departed Gordon Hayward.

It was Rudy who publicly called out his teammates with Utah mired in a 1-4 tailspin and fresh off a blowout loss in LA to their eventual 1st-round foe. It was Rudy who backed up those comments by immediately posting 20 points, 19 rebounds and 5 blocks to jumpstart a 7-2 finish entering the playoffs. And it was Rudy who led the Jazz in wins shares and finished in the NBA’s top-5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. The Jazz won’t need to undergo a significant transformation into Rudy’s team because they were already assimilating towards that even with Gordon Hayward.

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It should also be said it was Hayward who carried the bulk of the load at the heaviest of times in the postseason – Game 5 & 7 road wins in LA in which he was the best player on either team and when Rudy battled foul trouble returning from injury. While Hayward may never be a #1 player on a championship team, losing a top 15-20 player at perhaps the NBA’s most important position significantly hurts Utah’s on-court product.

With Ricky Rubio flanked by lefties Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood, the Jazz will have no problems initiating their sets but will miss the luxury of getting the ball to Hayward on their 2nd and 3rd integration of screen-roll with the shot clock winding down. Teams will defend Gobert differently in screen-roll and show out less forcing Rubio to pull-up from mid-range or get into the paint (where Rubio’s also struggled converting) before dishing/kicking out.

Fortunately, Gobert has consistently advanced his offensive game from a 7-1 center who struggled catching and going straight up to a ferocious finisher rolling/diving to the rim to a cognizant passer capable of flashing nifty vision to look weakside and pass on the move. Another season of adaptation and growth offensively for #27 is not out of the question and surrounding Rubio/Gobert with shooting (Hood, Ingles, Joe Johnson?) should keep the lane open for Rubio to find Gobert at the rim.

The Jazz will miss Hayward’s ability to score off-the-bounce, his defensive rebounding when Utah went small, and newfound off-ball cutting abilities the most. While Quin Snyder’s system oft relied on Hayward in a leading role – the offense (not much different from the free-flowing ones most teams in today’s league run) did not revolve around him. Hayward had begun to show a developing post game to punish smaller defenders switching onto him and it would not be surprising if part of Boston’s pitch to Hayward revolved around ways Brad Stevens would get Gordon the ball in scoring position earlier in the shotclock (which would be more about stroking a player’s ego than anything wrong with Utah’s offense).

Perhaps more so than Stevens’ coaching, playing with an alpha dog personality in Isaiah Thomas will help relieve pressure off Hayward in terms of 4th-quarter scoring attention and most importantly providing selective leadership. Hayward was looked upon as a leader in Utah because he was the Jazz’s best and most prominant player, not because he consistently exhibited the leadership qualities championship contenders require. In Boston, Isaiah can set the tone and Hayward can pick his spots – and both Boston and Hayward should be all the better for it.

The move is not without risk for Gordon. In leaving his Salt Lake media bubble often devoid of criticism, he’s pushing a restart button and putting his NBA legacy on the line. By the time he was first-round fodder in Brooklyn, NBA fans quickly forgot how dominant and elite Deron Williams was in his Utah days. Hayward will also need to produce under the brightest lights on the biggest stages or else he too will suffer the same media pressure Deron felt in Brooklyn. If he doesn’t, he may find himself in Danny Ainge’s asset collection by the time he’s ready to opt-out as a 10-year vet with a Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown ready to assume stature as a new face of the franchise.

Utah has their own future to evaluate. Surrounding Rudy, Ingles and Rubio – the Jazz have several veterans (Johnson, Favors, Burks) who (if healthy) are talented enough to play major roles and contribute to a playoff push. They also have a slew of younger players (Exum, Hood, and Mitchell) who they’d also be best served to give extended minutes to in order to properly evaluate and project their fit into the organization’s vision moving forward. Whether the Jazz ultimately toe the middle ground or shift their plans towards one of those groups will depend on how the first 3 months of the regular season goes but it’s worth mentioning a couple of those veterans also represent expiring contracts who could net a valuable asset that someone (a contender looking to bolster a playoff push or big-market team looking to clear 2018 capspace) may be willing to part with at the deadline as cap space gradually becomes a premium across the league.

From a business standpoint, the Jazz feel pressure to win. They’ve invested heavily in player and facility improvement and are depending on an income boost (raised ticket prices and enhanced club/box seating in addition to the NBA’s TV money) that is reliant upon winning games. Fans would rather buy tickets to sit on green hard plastic seats to watch a winner than black cushioned seats watching a loss. With a fanbase both reeling and galvanized by Hayward’s departure, this is one of the rare occurrences a drop back to a 7th/8th-seed would emotionally feel like a successful season. Finishing 9th or 10th in the ultra-competitive West isn’t out of the question either and given the inbalance between the two conferences, could result in a 1st-rnd pick as high as 9th or 10th.

One organization to both study and learn from would be the Portland Trailblazers sans LaMarcus Aldridge. Also a 51-win team in 2014-15, Aldridge’s departure paved the way for CJ McCollum to assume a starring role alongside Damian Lillard. While that dynamic duo is a bonafide big away from being a 55-win team – what’s locked Portland into NBA purgatory (44 and 41 wins the last two seasons) was overpaying on marginal role players. Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Mo Harkless, and Meyers Leonard each have 3 years left on their deals at an average salary of $14.4 million. Having over $56 million tied up in that foursome for 2017-18 was miscalculated.

Utah was right to re-sign Ingles but must be very meticulous in evaluating Hood and Exum’s next contract. Although the hope is there that Exum or Mitchell becomes a star and Hood a consistent scoring option – the Jazz need to view Rudy’s supporting cast with the mindset they’re a significant acquisition/trade away from getting back on track towards contention. With that approach – assets and flexibility are key.

The Jazz are good enough to win 36-46 games and fighting like hell to make the playoffs for the first three months with the option to pivot and trade a starter/rotation player for a future asset before the deadline would seem to be the most flexible approach that could provide a pleasing mix of internal development and immediate competitiveness.

Rudy Gobert is under contract until 2021 and the Jazz need to operate like they have a 3-4 year window to build a contender around him even if it means the worst-case scenario is passively missing the playoffs in year one. If they’re ahead of schedule and they’re right in the thick of things come February, all the better and standing pat could certainly make sense as well.

While the strategy for constructing an NBA contender varies between homebuilding and flipping houses, a hybrid model of both is necessary when you’re a small-market team already with a major piece in place.

The Jazz enter the new season with an offensive void but still with a foundation and future of options and hope. That’s what happens when you retain your most valuable player.

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Rudy Gobert vs Lakers 10-25-13
Run It Back

Final Score: Lakers 111, Jazz 106.
Player of the Game: Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! Rudy Gobert stole the Jazz show with 16pts/9reb/3blk in 24:34 of play. Of Gobert’s 8 field goals, 6 were dunks, 1 was a tip-in and the other was a nice 6-foot jump-hook with the left-hand.

Best Play: 5:01 3rd-Qtr – Gasol made a beautiful high-post bounce pass to Nash for a layup. Nash faked an off-ball screen, by slipping it. Lucas was prepared to switch it with Hayward, but the screen never and Nash broke completely free on a very Stockton-like cut.

Best Move: 9:13 1st-Qtr – On a Hayward&Favors side screen-roll L.A. forced Hayward baseline resulting in Favors getting the ball at the left elbow. Favors faced-up on Shawne Williams, made a quick left-to-right ball fake and with one dribble swooped in for an easy layup that Gasol didn’t challenge.

Favors only took 5 shots but his other two makes included a no-hesitation catch&shoot foul line jumper and a face-up Jack Sikma style jumper over Pau Gasol. Another solid offensive performance by him with limited opportunities.

Best Dunk: 8:24 4th-Qtr – Gobert missed a tip-in on an errant Brian Cook floater, rebounded with two hands and went up for a two-hand flush over Jordan Hill that got the entire Jazz bench up and some Jersey Shore style fist-pumping from Andris Biedrins.* (Considering Gobert is taking Biedrins minutes, really nice to see Andris up supporting his teammate).

Best Shot: 0:41 3rd-Qtr – Steve Blake hit a fall-away three out of the right corner with Justin Holiday flying at him.
Laker announcer Stu Lantz’s reaction: “What’s with him tonight?”
Blake, who was 3-27 in the previous 4 games, naturally shot 7-7 and 5-5 from behind the arc against the Jazz.

Best Pass: 0:24 3rd-QTR – Steve Nash penetrated the lane off high screen-roll and dropped an over-the-shoulder dish to Shawne Williams for the layup. As Clarkpojo said, it sucks seeing Nash close out his brilliant career on a very poor Laker team.

Worst Pass: 0:54 1st-Qtr – Rudy Gobert out-ran a lackadaisical Jordan Hill down the lane and had what appeared to be a transition dunk if not for an errant John Lucas III pass that rocketed off the rim and had nowhere near the touch to be an alley-oop. The Lakers scored in transition off the turnover.

Best Jazzbasketball Play: 3:47 2nd-Qtr – Off a Lakers miss Kanter sprinted the floor and posted up on the left-block. Lucas pushed the ball ahead to Hayward who got Enes the ball with 19-sec still remaining on the shotclock. L.A. brought the double so Kanter kicked the ball out to Jefferson who moved it around the horn to Lucas who then dumped it inside to Favors on the right-block. Again L.A. doubled and Favors found the free man (a cutting Hayward) for a layup. That’s the essence of “Jazzbasketball” – getting into early-offense, moving the ball and cutting to the basket.

Best “Karl Malone” Play: 7:49 3rd-Qtr – Off a jump-ball at the Lakers end that Utah gained control of, Derrick Favors motored down the court leaving Gasol in his dust. That forced Shawne Williams to track him down and opened up a lane for Lucas to drive down for an uncontested layup. Running the floor not only gets you easy baskets, it can get your teammates ones as well.

Underrated Play of the Game: 11:09 2nd-Qtr – The Jazz historically break full-court traps by getting the ball to their 4-man in the open court and letting him attack down the lane. The Lakers pressed Machado who found Kanter 60-feet from the basket. Kanter took a whopping four dribbles before he met a defender, where he then finished with a layup over Jordan Hill while also drawing the foul

Veteran Move of the Game: 4:49 3rd-Qtr – Hayward tried to use his size on Blake. After drawing consecutive off-ball fouls, Hayward went down on the left block to post-up. Blake got up into Hayward enough where on Gordon’s aggressive counter he sold the contact and drew the offensive foul. Although he played a frontcourt position at Butler, Hayward doesn’t have a lot of experience in the post so the nuances getting deep-position are a still a learning process for him. Nevertheless, he’s still made some nice plays this preseason inside against shorter guards.

Run of the Game: The game was comprised of three major runs. After building a 6-point lead late in the 1st-qtr, the Jazz once again imploded in the 2nd-qtr, falling behind by 11 on a 25-8 Laker run.

Once the starters returned, the Jazz then went on a 17-2 run to take a 6-point lead. On 4-consecutive Jazz possessions, Hayward score a layup off the pass from Favors (See JBB play of the game), backed Nash down in the post and drew 2 FT’s, hit a catch&shoot 3pt in transition and then pulled up for a 22-footer (foot on the line 2pt) from the left-wing. It was a brief stretch but Hayward was on fire. It should also be noted 3 of Hayward’s 4 scoring plays came in a complementary off-ball role which I believe is his ultimate role on a great team.

In the 3rd-qtr, the Lakers opened up with a 19-6 run that put Utah in a hole they could never climb out of.

Quote of the Game: Stu Lantz: “One thing about Gordon Hayward [the Jazz] better lock him up and lock him up in a hurry. You can tell he is the cornerstone for that franchise.”
Stu Lantz has seen a lot of basketball but later he also said: “Ty Corbin decides to put in probably his two-best starters in Gordon Hayward and Richard Jefferson,” so he’s probably batting closer to .500 when it comes to accurate assessments about the Jazz.

Odds and Ends:

-Ugly Jazz collision to end the 1st-half where Lucas was running down court calling for the ball and ran directly into Richard Jefferson.*

-On Utah’s first 2nd-half possession, Enes Kanter took a wide-open left-corner three that was about 6-inches wide right. Judging from the 2-seconds he held his follow-through, it looked like he thought it was good.

-2:10 3rd-Qtr Alec Burks pump-faked at the FT line, sending everybody in for a rebound that never came. Nick Young may still be looking up for the rebound.

-Brian Cook reportedly opened the 4th-qtr with a driving dunk but the producers failed to return from the break early enough to show it. Luke Walton (Lakers studio host and close friend of Cook) was upset it wasn’t shown, remarking: “He doesn’t do that very often.” If Brian Cook dunks in a game and no one shows it, did it make a sound?

-Twice in the 4th-qtr when Gobert was near the rim he motioned for a lob to the rim. Both times Brian Cook had the ball and no lob was thrown.

*For .gif’s of Lucas taking out RJ, Gobert dunking, Biedrins fist-pumping, plus other great stuff, visit JazzFanatical for fantastic postgame coverage!

The Gobert Report

Six dunks in one game is an impressive accomplishment for any player. How did Gobert get free for all six dunks?

The first three dunks came from offensive rebounds where a teammate (Hayward, McGuire & Hudson) penetrated, which drew help from Gobert’s man freeing him up on the offensive glass. Dunk #4 was highlighted previously (See “Dunk of the Game”). Dunk #5 came off a low-post touch where Gobert made a baseline dribble-hand-off to a cutting Ian Clark who drew the defense and kicked it back to Gobert for a ferocious 1-hand tomahawk. Dunk #6 came off high screen-roll where Gobert got a nice pass on the move from Lester Hudson and finished with a 2-hand flush.

Although he may be limited skill-wise offensively, Gobert’s teammates will learn the value he brings and understand when he’s on the court – drive to the basket and get a shot up on the rim which will free Gobert as a vacuum on the offensive glass.

After some impressive summer league play, the big question was whether Gobert could translate that to NBA play quickly enough to pass Andris Biedrins in the rotation. The past 2 games he answered that with a resounding “YesOui!”

There’s no reason Gobert shouldn’t be given the first opportunity as Utah’s backup center in the regular season. In preseason he’s shown he can dunk and block shots. In summer league he’s shown he can dunk and block shots. Rudy Gobert dunks and block shots. That’s a valuable commodity not many 7-2 backup centers can provide.

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Derrick Favors vs Clippers 10-23-2013

Run It Back

Final Score: Clippers 108, Jazz 94.
Player of the Game: Derrick Favors. A lot of different players played well, but Favors was an absolute monster and produced in every quarter.

Derrick Favors – Quarter-by-Quarter Statistics
Qtr Pts Reb FG Att FT Att Ast TO PF Min
1st 8 4 4 7 0 0 1 0 2 12
2nd 2 5 1 2 0 1 1 0 0 6
3rd 8 5 2 3 4 5 0 1 1 12
4th 6 3 3 5 0 0 1 2 2 7
Total 24 17 10 17 4 6 3 3 5 37
FG% 59% FT% 67%

Favors set the tone from the outset with a deep post-up on Blake Griffin where he sealed, got a nice entry-pass from Richard Jefferson and went up for a bigtime finish that DeAndre Jordan wanted no part of. By the time the quarter was over he had added a power layup on a mismatch with Jared Dudley, and two jump hooks over Griffin – a left-block baseline spin right-shoulder hook and then right-block left-shoulder jump hook.

Over the final 3-quarters Favors continued to finish strong at the rim while also stepping out on the floor and hitting mid-range jumpers and showing more of his left-hand jump hook. Easily Favors best game of the preseason and the first time he scored 20-points or more in a Jazz uniform since 3/4/13 when he posted 23&15 through 3-quarters before inexplicably riding the bench in the 4th-qtr and overtime.

Best Play: 11:10 1st-Qtr – Favors got Utah on the board with the seal and dunk against Griffin. What made it so effective was Favors started the play on the weakside while Utah ran side-screen roll with Hayward&Kanter. Because that forced Griffin to be the pick&roll rotating big, it allowed Favs to establish deep post-position on him. Utah did a nice job swinging the ball across the court where Favors could make the quick duck-in & seal the lane. That’s the type of play that can manufacture a quality look and get someone like Favors going early.

Best Execution: 2:22 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll with Hayward and Favors. Favors rolled down the middle and Antawn Jamison rotated up to cut off Favors’ drive. Favors made an excellent dump-down pass to Kanter who scored at the rim while also being fouled. Favors was an an effective stationary passer last season but this pass on the move was a primary source of turnovers for him. Malone and Boozer were outstanding at it and when executed properly is another example how a well-executed pick&roll can produce beautiful basketball.

Best Move: 10:57 1st-Qtr – Favors got the ball on the left-block, reverse-pivoted, took a hard dribble right then spun baseline and delivered a left-hand jump hook over Blake Griffin.

Worst Move: 6:20 1st-Qtr Blake Griffin tried to take Favors off-the-dribble from the top of the key, making an ugly crossover in which he turned his right ankle and fell down. Naturally, the refs whistled Favors for a foul and gave Griffin 2 FT’s even though replays showed there was no contact.

Best Dunk: 4:02 3rd-Qtr – Chris Paul and Griffin ran the side pick&roll to perfection, with Blake exploding to the rim over Rudy Gobert (who wisely pulled back to avoid ending up in a poster).

Best Follow-Dunk: 10:36 – 4th-Qtr – With one hand, Gobert emphatically slammed in a missed Mike Harris jumper. There have been a lot of wingspan giants over the years who lacked the athleticism and coordination to be an above-the-rim player at the offensive end. Even a point-blank range, Gobert still showed he has the potential to be more than just a shot-blocker.

Best Pass: 10:10 4th-Qtr – Running in transition Alec Burks shoveled a no-look dish to Scott Machado filling the lane for a layup to put the Jazz up 81-76 and force a Doc Rivers’ timeout.

Runner-Up: 7:16 4th-Qtr – Rudy Gobert got he ball on the left-block and made a gorgeous drop pass to a baseline cutting John Lucas III who promptly air-balled the layup.

Best Block: 11:18 1st-Qtr – Blake Griffin drove right on Favors only to have his 5-foot runner sent back by the long arm of Rudy Gobert. On the very next possession, it was Byron Mullens turn to be rejected by Gobert at the rim. Following his 2nd block, Gobert ran the floor hard and had what appeared to be an open dunk attempt but lost the ball on the way up. He was noticeably winded after that sequence but he played hard and made a tremendous impact (5 blocks, 12 rebounds in just 20-min).

Best Jazzbasketball Play: 9:06 2nd-Qtr – Utah quickly got setup and into their flex offense, with Mike Harris passing from the high-post (right elbow) to a back-cutting Alec Burks for a layup.

Run of the Game: A 2-hand Gobert dunk put Utah ahead 83-78 with 8:58 to play before the Clippers answered with an 8-0 run over the next 2-minutes that proved to be the difference in the game. During LA’s run Alec Burks played out of control with two wild layup attempts that were blocked preceeding Lucas’ airball off the pass from Gobert.

Sneaky Good Player of the Game: Gobert’s impact was obvious. Richard Jefferson put together another efficient game with 11 points and 5 assists on 3-5 shooting, 4-4 from the FT line and 1-1 from behind the arc. In the 3rd-qtr he scored 7 consecutive Jazz points including a nice step-back jumper on the right wing. If he stays within himself and takes care of the ball, he could definitely be a solid starter.

Quote of the Game: I watched the game on an internet feed instead of on TV. This feed played live audio instead of commercials. During halftime, Boler and Harpring had a hilarious “off-camera” exchange about Floyd Mayweather (who was apparently at the game and pointed out by one of the producers). After asking the producer if they could get him for an in-game interview, Harpring then remarked “He’s probably got $5-grand on this game.” My computer probably now a bunch of spyware on it but watching Jazz games on strange internet-feeds does have it’s perks.

Stat of the Game: It was a tale of two-halves for Gordon Hayward, who shot 5-9 in the 1st-half but just 1-9 in the 2nd-half.
After a brilliant start that likely only caused Doc Rivers’ man-crush on Gordon to grow, Hayward struggled to score in the 2nd-half. In my opinion – the struggles were partly due to the Clippers wearing him down, and party due to Utah’s lack of a quality point guard play that put too much pressure on Hayward and forced him too far out on the floor. Even in the first-half, he took a lot of off-the-dribble threes and long-2’s that are great when they’re going in overall the odds will likely catch up to you.

Gordon Hayward – Quarter-by-Quarter Statistics
Qtr Pts Reb FG Att FT Att 3pt Att Ast Min
1st 5 1 2 5 0 0 1 3 0 12
2nd 7 0 3 4 0 0 1 1 2 5
3rd 2 2 1 5 0 0 0 0 2 8
4th 5 3 1 4 3 4 0 0 2 7
Total 19 6 7 18 3 4 2 4 6 32
FG% 39% FT% 75% 3pt% 50%

Again it’s hard to criticize a 19/6/6 performance in just 32-minutes of play, but the 1-9 second-half shooting is definitely worthy of discussion following a close loss. This is Hayward’s first time in a leading role, so it’s natural for him to go through some growing pains closing out games as well.

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Final Word

Overall this was Utah’s best preseason performance to date, in my opinion more impressive than their lone victory over Golden State when factoring in opponent, competitiveness of the game and the manner in which they competed. Even though Utah tried hard to win and came up short, if they can combine the levels of intensity and execution they showed tonight 60-70 times during in the regular season – there won’t be many complaints about the 2013-14 Jazz season regardless of their win-loss record.

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He’s Back

Following the game, Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy reported that the Jazz and Jamaal Tinsley had come to terms on a contract and that Tinsley would join the Jazz prior to Friday night’s preseason finale against the Lakers in Anaheim.

There are two reasons I think this is a terrific move by the Jazz:
1. Tinsley can be an excellent mentor for rookie PG Trey Burke. Unlike John Lucas III, Tinsley has extrodinary court-vision and a 6th-sense that all visionary point guards possess. He can help Burke understand passing angles in the NBA, when to look to push the tempo (Tinsley is still very good at knowing when to throw ahead in transition), and how to slow down in transition to create passing lanes.

Also Tinsley was once in Burke’s shoes. He was the potential franchise point guard for the Indiana Pacers before his career took a sharp swerve that knocked him out of the league completely. While Trey Burke is a outstanding young man coming from a great family, having someone like Jamaal to provide that “Don’t do what I did” example as well as show him that “I’ve learned what it means to be a professional and this is how you do it” approach.

2. There’s a very good chance Tinsley can help the Jazz on the court while Trey Burke is out. John Lucas III has been hot-and-cold offensively and hasn’t been particularly strong orchestrating the offense. Tinsley is the quintessential veteran pass-first point guard who can at the very least come off the bench and stabilize a 2nd-unit that often struggles to score. If he starts, he may struggle defensively but he’ll take some of the pressure off Hayward to make a play every time the shotclock is winding down.
Bottom line: Jamaal Tinsley makes the Jazz a better team.

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Orlando Pro Summer League 2013

The Utah Jazz fell to the Indiana Pacers 79-73 Thursday in their next-to-last summer league game. The loss knocked them out of contention for first or second place in the Orlando Pro Summer League. The Jazz will again face the Pacers in the 3rd/4th-place game.

Rudy Gobert 11 Points, 8 Rebounds & 3 Blocks

Trey Burke Highlights vs Pacers

Raul Neto Highlights vs Pacers

Jeremy Evans Highlights vs Pacers

Jerel McNeal Highlights vs Pacers

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The Jazz’s final summer league game is Friday at 10AM ET/8AM MT.

2013 Jazz Summer League Schedule
7/7 – Sun – Miami (W – 6 points)
7/9 – Tue – Houston (L – 1 point)
7/10 – Wed – Brooklyn – (W – 7 points)
7/11 – Thu – Indiana – (L – 2 points)
7/12 – Fri – Indiana – 10:00AM ET/8:00AM MT

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