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Concerns about effort and enthusiasm cloud Utah Jazz’s Summer League loss – Deseret News

Concerns about effort and enthusiasm cloud Utah Jazz’s Summer League loss – Deseret News

You know what would be crazy?

If the Utah Jazz’s roster of rookies, two-way players, and non-guaranteed reserve players came into a Summer League game with no enthusiasm, it would be pretty crazy if those types of players were so comfortable that they didn’t play their best every single time they took the court.

“It didn’t look like anyone wanted to play tonight,” said Jazz Summer League head coach Sean Sheldon. “That was disappointing because that’s the only thing we’ve talked about for the last week and a half.”

The Jazz coaching staff has tried to make it clear that they don’t care if things don’t look perfect or shots don’t go in. They know it’s going to be a little chaotic, especially with so many young players. But they expect tough competition. They expect the players to at least try to make the right decisions and show that they’re willing to give 110% every minute.

But on Tuesday night, in only the Jazz’s second game of the Salt Lake Summer League, they seemed to be playing a routine game for long stretches. The offense was stagnant and the players preferred to play in isolation rather than share the ball.

“Obviously we didn’t shoot the ball well offensively, but that didn’t help us in the first half,” Sheldon said. “We didn’t pass the ball around, we tried to play one-on-one. But kudos to this group for finishing the game. I thought they moved the ball really well and made the right decisions.”

That group included Kenneth Lofton Jr., whose contract is not guaranteed for next season. Lofton is entering his third season and has yet to find a permanent home in the NBA. Much of the concern surrounding Lofton in recent years has been his body and conditioning. The reason he hasn’t completely disappeared from the NBA world is that he’s so talented, and everyone hopes he’ll get into NBA shape at some point.

Since joining the Jazz late last season, he has continued to lose weight and appears to be making great progress (he can play longer and maintain his endurance), and there is great hope that he can continue this development and become a key player for the Jazz in the future.

“He’s obviously super talented,” Sheldon said. “I think he’s just got to find the right system, more than anything. The way Will (Hardy) plays — with the off-ball stuff and what we often run for Kelly (Olynyk) — Kenny could be really good at that position. So that’s what we’re trying to figure out. I don’t know why he hasn’t stayed at other positions, but I think that’s one reason he could potentially stay here.”

Lofton finished the night with 18 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block in the Jazz’s 98-75 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Although some of the Jazz’s other players (most notably Brice Sensabaugh and Darius Bazley) showed some potential and intrigue, the team as a whole looked listless throughout the first half. Could the excuse be that the players are tired, haven’t had enough time to build chemistry, and aren’t used to the system? Sure.

“I want to give them a little confidence,” Sheldon said. “But you get paid to play basketball, so if you play when you’re tired, play hard and we’ll get you a replacement quickly. But yeah, as a coach, I don’t know what to tell them. We can’t play the game for them. I hope that changes tomorrow.”

The Jazz will finish their Salt Lake City Summer League schedule with a game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night before heading to the Las Vegas Summer League.