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Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dante Exum (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Opposite Journeys Of Joe Ingles And Dante Exum

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dante Exum (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz are preparing to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight. The game was supposed to mark the second time former Jazz lottery pick Dante Exum faced his old team after being traded in 2019 for sixth man Jordan Clarkson.

However, just as he was last March when the Cavaliers traveled to Utah and was so often the case as a member of the Jazz, Exum will miss tonight’s game with an injury.

The Australian guard suffered a non-contract calf injury against the Orlando Magic last week just 49 seconds into the game. Exum had been moved into the Cavaliers starting lineup three games earlier before suffering the freak injury.

Exum is expected to miss at least a month with the strain but could be out as long as two months. The guard has missed four straight games after suffering the injury after missing the Cavaliers season opener after injuring his hip.

For Exum, the missed games continue to pile up.

Last season the guard missed 11 of the 34 games he spent in Cleveland. Before being traded, Exum missed 19 of the Jazz first 30 games.

During his time in Utah, Exum appeared in more than 70 games just once — his rookie season when he played all 82 games. The guard missed his entire sophomore season, before appearing in 66 games during his third season.

Over the final three and a half years of his career in Utah, Exum played in just 102 of the possible 276 games with the team.

Exum And Ingles Opposite Jazz Careers

Exum and Jazz guard Joe Ingles began their careers together in Utah in 2014. Exum was the fifth overall pick by the Jazz in the 2014 NBA draft, a rookie class billed as the most talent heavy since LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade joined the NBA in 2003.

Ingles meanwhile was a last-minute addition to the Jazz regular-season roster after being waived by the Los Angeles Clippers on the final night of the preseason.

Exum was just 19 years old and had never played high-level professional basketball. Ingles was 27, one of the oldest rookies in NBA history, with a full pedigree of professional European basketball behind him.

Due to Exum’s inexperience, Ingles was brought in to help the teen-aged Exum adjust to the rigors of pro hoops, providing a familiar face from Australia’s national team in Utah.

The Jazz didn’t get what they bargained for.

Exum’s injuries prevented him from ever transforming into the star they hoped they were drafting in 2014, while Ingles well-developed game and remarkable health made him a mainstay in Quin Snyder’s system.

As Exum’s injury history has limited him to just 262 career games over the last seven seasons, Ingles enjoyed a 418 game iron man streak which ended last week when a sore Achilles kept him off the floor in Milwaukee.

Ingles And Exum Keep In Touch

Despite the opposite directions their careers have taken, and now playing for different Ingles and Exum keep in touch.

“We’re still friends,” Ingles said before the Jazz matchup with the Cavaliers. “You don’t trade players or whatever happens and never speak to them again.”

As has often been the case with Exum, his injury came at the least opportune time, just as he was finding his groove in the starting lineup with the young Cavaliers roster.

“He was playing really well,” Ingles said of Exum’s play this season. “He was starting and playing pretty heavy minutes and was finding a really nice niche role for himself.”

Exum’s first major injury came after his rookie season where he’d been moved into the starting lineup for the Jazz. During a game with the Australian national team, Exum tore his ACL and sat out the entire 2015-16 NBA season.

The guard worked his way back into the Jazz rotation during his third NBA season but suffered a dislocated shoulder during the preseason of his fourth year causing him to miss the first 68 games of the season in 2017-18.

Just five games into his Cavaliers tenure, Exum had the best game of his career, scoring 28 points on 11-13 shooting, but promptly missed the following three games with an illness.

Exum had assumed the role of defensive stopper on the Cavaliers perimeter alongside Colin Sexton and rookie Isaac Okoro before his latest injury.

“I was really happy for him obviously before the injury,” Ingles said of Exum. “But hopefully, he’ll get back soon.”

The Jazz and Cavaliers tip-off at 5:30 pm MST. The game will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet.

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