UTAH JAZZ

Toscano-Anderson, Jones Shine In Jazz Debut

Feb 15, 2023, 9:54 PM

Utah Jazz forward Juan Toscano-Anderson...

Utah Jazz forward Juan Toscano-Anderson (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz got strong debuts from Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones despite falling to the Memphis Grizzlies 117-111.

With the loss, the Jazz fell to 29-31 through the first 60 games of the season as they head into the All-Star break.

All-Star starter Lauri Markkanen (knee) was ruled out before the game started, while Collin Sexton left the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury.

Kelly Olynyk led the Jazz with a season-high 28 points, while Jordan Clarkson added 20 in the loss.

Toscano-Anderson Has Strong Outing

Toscano-Anderson and Jones were acquired before last Thursday’s trade deadline but didn’t see the floor before Wednesday’s contest in Memphis.

While it may have taken several days to see the court, neither player wasted any time making their presence known.

Toscano-Anderson entered the game with two minutes left in the first quarter and knocked down his first three-point attempt in his first 90 seconds with the Jazz.

Jones didn’t see the floor until late in the third quarter but recorded four points, two rebounds, and a block in the final 2:31 of the period.

Toscano-Anderson would finish with seven points, 10 rebounds, an assist, and a steal in 25 minutes, while Jones finished with seven points, two rebounds, and two blocks in just under eight minutes.

“I just thought that their competitiveness, their athleticism, their physicality really stood out tonight,” Will Hardy said. “I thought they helped change the tempo of the game.”

Toscano-Anderson got minutes on the perimeter with Rudy Gay missing the game due to a non-Covid illness. The versatile forward looked comfortable operating within Hardy’s offensive system and showed a knack for filling space on defense.

“He played in a system in Golden State for a long time where the ball moves around and everybody’s involved in touching the ball,” Hardy said. “It’s about playing to your strengths and getting to the next action. I thought he was great.”

Damian Jones Makes Quick Impact

Jones assumed the backup center role in the second half after an unremarkable one rebound, one turnover stint from Udoka Azubuike. The Jazz were outscored by 15 in Azubuike’s three minutes on the floor, and he never retook the court after the first half.

“Defensively he showed some ability to stay in front of the ball and alter shots at the rim,” Hardy said of Jones. “He’s clearly a great athlete and I think it was just a good night for those guys to get get some minutes.”

The question after the All-Star break for the Jazz will be whether Toscano-Anderson and Jones remain in the lineup, and if so, whose minutes will they take?

Gay has been one of the least productive rotation players in the NBA this season averaging 4.8 points and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 38 percent from the floor and 24 percent from three.

Azubuike meanwhile appears to be the same player he was when the Jazz selected him in the first round of the 2020 draft, having added little to his game since his time in Kansas.

Toscano-Anderson’s contract is expiring this summer leaving the Jazz with just 22 games to see what they have in the 29-year-old wing.

With Gay’s production level at an all-time low, and his only real value coming from his expiring $6.5 million contract next season, it may be worth replacing him with Toscano-Anderson in the rotation to close the season.

Similarly, Azubuike is on his way out the door this summer after the Jazz opted against picking up his fourth-year option, which gives the team plenty of reason to play Jones as the primary backup to Walker Kessler over the next two months.

Jones has a one-year player option left on his deal worth a minuscule $2.5 million.

Sitting a half-game back of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 10th seed in the West, the Jazz have the freedom to try to make the playoffs in the West over the final 22 games of the season, or fall further back into the lottery.

How they choose to play Toscano-Anderson and Jones after the All-Star break may be a strong indication of their intentions.

Extras:

  • The Jazz enter the All-Star break with a 29-31 record, tied with the Portland Trail Blazers for the 11th seed in the West.
  • Ochai Agbaji had arguably the most complete game of his career scoring 17 points on 7-12 shooting while helping to hold Ja Morant to 20 points on 8-26 shooting.
  • Toscano-Anderson’s 10 rebounds were one off his career-high, and his most since December 18, 2021.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder will tip off at 7 pm MT in Salt Lake City on February 23 after the All-Star break. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. It can also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Toscano-Anderson, Jones Shine In Jazz Debut