Jazz Azubuike, Forrest Shine In Salt Lake City Summer League

Aug 3, 2021, 9:58 PM
Utah Jazz center Udoka Azubuike (Photo: Ben Anderson/KSLSports)...
Utah Jazz center Udoka Azubuike (Photo: Ben Anderson/KSLSports)
(Photo: Ben Anderson/KSLSports)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz split their Salt Lake City Summer League debuts with the blue roster losing to the San Antonio Spurs 104-65 before the white roster beat the Memphis Grizzlies 87-58.

The white roster features all the returning players from the Jazz last season who are participating in summer league led by Udoka Azubuike, Jarrel Brantley, Trent Forrest, Elijah Hughes, and Juwan Morgan.

Azubuike and Hughes have guaranteed contracts with the Jazz this season while Brantley, Forrest, and Morgan are trying to earn roster spots during summer league.

After appearing in 30 games for the Jazz last season, Forrest looked the most comfortable of any player on the white roster. The second-year guard led the Jazz with 19 points and seven assists to carry the team to an easy victory.

Forrest shot 8-11 from the floor including 2-3 from the three-point line which was the main point of focus for his offseason improvement.

“One of the coaches I work with worked with Royce [O’Neale],” Forrest said of his summer training. “I know when Royce came in I heard he wasn’t the best shooter, but every day they just did little things to help him get better.”

At 6’4 and 210 lbs, Forrest has terrific size for the lead guard position and brings the type of length defensively the Jazz desperately lacked during last year’s second-round playoff loss.

Azubuike, the Jazz’s first-round draft pick was also impressive in his summer league debut. The Kansas product had eight points, 14 rebounds, and blocked two shots in just under 23 minutes.

Standing 6’11, weighing 260 lbs with a 41 inch vertical, Azubuike easily rose over smaller Spurs defenders to finish lobs from Forrest on the offensive end. Similar to Jazz center Rudy Gobert on defense, the San Antonio summer league players regularly turned away from challenging the Jazz big man at the rim.

“I’m just a dominant big,” Azubuike said of his enormous size. “Right from college if you watch a clip of me from college, I’m just dominant. That’s what I bring to the table.”

Few players in the NBA have Azubuike’s combination of size and fluid athleticism to run the floor and finish at the rim. After reportedly signing Hassan Whiteside to fill the backup center minutes behind Gobert, Azubuike may not find himself regularly in the Jazz’s rotation, but the tools he brings to the floor should earn him a shot to contribute in the future.

“He’s a vertical spacer,” Jazz summer league coach Bryan Bailey said. “As our guards got in the paint we can just throw the ball up and he’s the only one that can get it. As long as he keeps talking on defense and he’s active, I think he’ll be good.”

Jazz Blue Roster

The blue roster doesn’t feature any players that were on the roster last season and was blown out by the far more experienced Memphis team.

Joe Chealey who played at the College of Charleston next to Jazz two-way contract player Jarrell Brantley scored 15 points to lead the team on an efficient 6-9 shooting but was no match for the Grizzlies’ second-year players Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman.

Rookie draft pick Jared Butler will not be playing with the Jazz until the team’s trade to acquire him on draft night is finalized by the NBA later this week.

The Jazz white and blue rosters will switch opponents tomorrow night with the white roster facing the Grizzlies and the blue roster facing the Spurs.

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