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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Some fringe Jazz players opened eyes in Vegas

By Jody Genessy, Deseret News

Published: Sun, July 20 8:56 p.m. MDT

 Dante Exum goes up for a shot as he is blocked by Ian Clark during an open Utah Jazz practice at EnergySolutions Arena, Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Dante Exum goes up for a shot as he is blocked by Ian Clark during an open Utah Jazz practice at EnergySolutions Arena, Thursday, July 10, 2014.

(Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

LAS VEGAS — The NBA Summer League provided offseason entertainment for fans, gave media something to report on and offered an opportunity for new members of the Utah Jazz to dip their toes into the professional waters.

But before Summer League even tipped off, Quin Snyder admitted to not putting too much stock in the offseason hoopsfest.

“I’ve seen players who have come out and had great summer leagues and maybe not had the years you would expect,” the Jazz coach said. “Then I’ve seen guys who have really struggled and have kind of used it and figured it out, and it’s great.”

Likewise, with 11 guaranteed contracts on the Jazz’s 2014-15 roster and only a few openings available, there are summer Jazz players who hope what happened in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas, and other fringe guys who hope Utah brass throw out the game film.

Here’s a look at how some of the roster hopefuls fared:

MALCOLM THOMAS: The 6-foot-9 forward started all five games and proved to be one of the team’s top players, averaging a second-best 11.8 points. Thomas, who has a non-guaranteed deal for next season, provided some nice stretch-four shooting, 52 percent overall and 4-for-8 on threes. The 25-year-old was also active while grabbing an average of 5.4 rebounds, dishing out 2.4 assists and blocking 1.2 shots in 23.8 minutes per game.

“I thought he had a really good week, one of our most consistent players, which is good,” Jazz assistant coach Brad Jones said. “We talked to him (and said), ‘You’ve been through three summer leagues. You need to be that guy and have a great week.’ I really thought he stepped up and did that for us.”

Thomas said his main focuses on the court with the Jazz were defense, setting picks and helping get other guys open.

“I don’t feel like I have a secure spot ever playing Summer League. There’s really no pressure,” the former San Diego State player said. “I just try to go out and play as hard as possible, and then whatever happens, happens.”

BROCK MOTUM: Yes, he was “The Other Australian” on the squad. But the former Washington State player held his own in an energetic week, showing he could be a solid addition to the Jazz organization, either with the NBA squad or perhaps in the D-League with affiliate Idaho Stampede.

“I thought Brock Motum played really well. He did a nice job of picking up our stuff and understanding it and being able to do what he does with the flow,” Jones said. “It was nice to see him step up and play well.”

The 6-foot-10 Motum hit 62 percent of his shots and averaged 8.0 points (0.8 more than fellow Aussie Dante Exum, by the way). Both players returned to their native land to participate with their national team leading up to the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup.

“International people know he’s a good player because he’s going to play on the Australia national team,” Jones said of Motum. “Maybe in Salt Lake people didn’t know he’s a good player, but our scouting staff knew he was a good player. I thought he did really well for us the past week and a half.”

“I felt like I’ve done a pretty good job of showcasing my talent, my ability in a team setting,” Motum said. “Utah is a great team, a great organization. It’s structured really good and it suits my game, I think. That’s allowed me to play well this week.”

IAN CLARK: Last year’s NBA Summer League championship game MVP didn’t have the same offensive output as 2013 with the Warriors, but that’s because the 6-foot-3 guard had a different role for this Jazz squad.

“I think it went well for me and the team. I’ve been trying to work on playing the point guard a little bit more, handling the ball a lot,” the former Belmont sharpshooter said. “Coaches, they trust me to initiate the offense and still be in attack mode. It’s something I’ve been trying to work on.”

Clark, signed by the Jazz after his 33-point title game last summer, hit 7-of-14 3-pointers, shot 40 percent from the field, averaged 2.0 assists and 1.4 turnovers, and scored 8.4 points in 21.4 minutes as Utah went 2-3.

ERIK MURPHY: The Jazz brought him aboard just before the 2013-14 season wrapped up in hopes of getting a good look at him this summer. The power forward is among the guys who’d like the Utah brass to overlook what happened in Vegas, as he only hit one third of his shots while averaging 5.0 points and 4.2 rebounds.

“I think I played all right,” said Murphy, who is now training with Finland’s national team. “I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I can, but that happens. … I think one thing we were trying to do was just play as a team.”

THE OTHERS: Former Weber State guard Nick Covington finished with a flair, scoring 12 points in Utah’s 75-73 consolation game win over Portland on Friday. But the guard only played in two other games for a total of 16 minutes before that because the Jazz backcourt minutes were gobbled up by Exum, Clark and Trey Burke. … Former University of Utah big man Jason Washburn only took one shot (a miss) and played just three minutes in two games. … Hungarian center Greg Somogyi rejoined the Jazz on Monday but also saw limited time. … German swingman Niels Giffey played in all five games, averaging 3.4 points and 1.4 rebounds, but his most notable moment might’ve been helping to sing happy birthday to Dante Exum. … Bradley guard Chris Roberts went scoreless in two of the three games he played in and scored four points in the other.

EMAIL: jody@desnews.com

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