The team’s medical staff determined that the second-year center has a subluxation in his right ankle, but initial X-rays didn’t show a fracture. Doctors will continue to review the MRI results to set a timetable for Azubuike’s recovery (Twitter link).
Azubuike was hurt in the first quarter of the Salt Lake City Stars’ game when he landed awkwardly after attempting to block a shot, according to Kyle Ireland of KSL Sports. Teammates had to help him off the court and into the locker room.
The Jazz made Azubuike the 27th overall pick in 2020, but he hasn’t seen much action at the NBA level. He played just 15 games as a rookie and has appeared in four so far this season, averaging 0.5 points and 1.0 rebounds in eight total minutes.
The 20-year-old also suffered a severe ankle sprain while playing in the G League bubble in February, Ireland notes. He didn’t recover until after the abbreviated G League season has ended. In six games with the Stars this season, he’s averaging 7.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per night.
Veteran forward Rudy Gay, who signed a three-year contract with the Jazz in the offseason, is set to make his debut with the team. Utah announced today (via Twitter) that Gay will be available for Thursday’s contest vs. the Raptors.
Gay, 35, received a deal worth the full taxpayer mid-level exception this summer after spending the last four seasons in San Antonio. He averaged 11.4 PPG and 4.8 RPG on .420/.381/.804 shooting in 63 games (21.6 MPG) last season before undergoing offseason surgery on his right heel. The Jazz were aware of that procedure when they agreed to sign him.
We’ll have to wait to see exactly how Gay fits into Utah’s rotation, but the club envisions him as a player who can create his own shot on offense and match up with bigger opposing forwards on defense. He’ll likely be eased into action in a limited role off the bench.
The Jazz‘s player development track record is getting hard to ignore, according to Ben Dowsett of FiveThirtyEight.com, who points not to stars like Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert, but to veterans like Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, and – most recently – Royce O’Neale.
Dowsett contends that the mid-career leaps those players have made in Utah are in large part due to head coach Quin Snyder‘s developmental program. For his part, Snyder is reluctant to take credit, suggesting that the players themselves are the ones responsible for their positive strides.
“It’s a credit to the players,” Snyder said. “Sometimes you can be content, especially if you’re successful in this league and have established yourself, to do what you do, so to speak.”
Here’s more on the Jazz:
- After Mike Conley missed several key games in last season’s playoffs due to a hamstring injury, the Jazz are doing all they can in 2021/22 to make sure he’s fully healthy for the postseason, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. That includes limiting Conley’s minutes and sitting him in certain back-to-back sets, which the veteran guard is still getting used to. “I think the plan is going to pay dividends at the end,” Conley said. “I don’t like sitting games at all. I definitely prefer to play. But if it’s going to give me a better chance at health in the long run, I’m all for it. Especially if it’s going to help the team.”
- In a separate story for The Athletic, Jones explores how Georges Niang, who returned to Utah on Tuesday as a member of the Sixers, developed into a reliable NBA player with the Jazz, noting that Niang still holds the franchise in high regard. “Being in Utah, it took me from a young man to an adult,” he said. “I can’t be thankful enough to the Jazz organization, and I had four great years in Utah.”
- McKay Coppins of The Deseret News takes an in-depth look at the impact new team owner Ryan Smith has had on the Jazz and the greater aspirations he has for the state of Utah.
- In a Q&A with Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Dwyane Wade spoke about being a part-owner of the Jazz and said that his role with the franchise will be “forever evolving” as he learns more about the business side of basketball.
- Veteran forward Rudy Gay was among the players briefly assigned to the G League by the Jazz on Sunday, the team announced (via Twitter). Gay, who is recovering from offseason heel surgery, was back with Utah on Monday and went through practice in full, though head coach Quin Snyder remains reluctant to commit to a return date, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic.
As we noted earlier today, there was a mild dustup between Rudy Gobert and Myles Turner in the Jazz‘s 111-100 loss to the Pacers last night. Both players were ejected, as were Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell.
The NBA has announced (Twitter link) that all four players have been fined for the incident, but avoided suspensions.
Gobert was dinged $35K for initiating the altercation, Turner $25K for escalating, Ingles $30K for pushing a referee, and Mitchell $20K for escalating via verbally taunting.
In a separate tweet, the league also announced that Fred VanVleet of the Raptors was fined $15K for making an obscene gesture at the end of the team’s win against the Sixers last night. VanVleet recreated an old Sam Cassell celebration, which has earned imitators fines in the past.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Pacers center Myles Turner engaged in a skirmish during Thursday’s game in Utah, briefly wrestling with one another after getting tangled up following a Gobert drive (video link).
As Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune details, the incident resulted in ejections for Gobert and Turner, as well as for Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell. Ingles was ejected for shoving referee Ed Malloy while trying to break up the fight; Mitchell was said to be “acting as an instigator and escalating the situation.” It’s unclear if any players will face suspensions as a result of the incident, but fines, at least, seem likely.
After the game, Mitchell and Gobert were focused more on the way the game was being officiated than concerns about forthcoming penalties. Gobert said referees are “allowing guys to do way too much s–t” this season and Mitchell agreed.
“It’s really at a point now, especially tonight, where the referees are allowing things to get out of hand,” Mitchell said, per Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “Both teams, we’re competitors and we’ll play through contact and talk s–t and do whatever. But at some point it’s continuing to build and you can sense that.”
Here’s more out of Utah:
- Hassan Whiteside has been a great fit so far as the Jazz’s second-string center, Todd writes for The Deseret News. According to Todd, the veteran big man – who has been accused in the past of looking to pad his own stats – has embraced the team-first philosophy in Utah. “It’s so cool how close this team is, I haven’t been on a team that’s this close,” Whiteside said. “A lot of people say, ‘Hey we’re close team, hey we do this together.’ Nah. This is really like a close-knit group. It’s great. I love it.”
- Rookie guard Jared Butler can expect to bounce back and forth between the NBA and the G League this season, as Todd outlines in a separate story for The Deseret News. The veteran-heavy Jazz won’t be making it a top priority to develop their young prospects at the NBA level, so Butler, Udoka Azubuike, and Elijah Hughes could all see reps for the Salt Lake City Stars when they’re not part of Utah’s rotation, says general manager Justin Zanik.
- Dwyane Wade‘s position as a part-owner of the Jazz hasn’t diminished his Heat fandom, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. Wade said he still “loves” his old team and would be rooting for them to win a championship if the Jazz don’t. “Miami, from a personal standpoint, I would love to see them win it all,” he said. “But I also would love to see us win it all. So, for me, it’s a win-win.”
- Rudy Gay, who signed with the Jazz in the offseason, is inching closer to making his debut for the team, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. The team said on Tuesday that Gay has been taking part in “controlled court work,” and Todd says he’s begun participating in 3-on-3 action. Utah will provide another update on the veteran forward on Monday.