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The Jazz Daily: Rudy Gobert will play Monday night; Alec Burks explains his success

By Andy Larsen, KSL.com  |  Posted Dec 4th, 2017 @ 3:15pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz held shootaround on Monday ahead of their home matchup against the Washington Wizards. Here's what's going on around the franchise.

Rudy Gobert back

Gobert will be playing against the Wizards Monday night after returning from the knee bone bruise that has sidelined him for the last three weeks.

Still, that's earlier than expected, when the team originally announced that Gobert would be re-evaluated after four weeks sitting out. Clearly, though, Gobert recovered quickly.

"We wouldn't ever do anything to put Rudy in harm's way," head coach Quin Snyder said.

Gobert will be on a minute restriction of some sort, so Derrick Favors, who has excelled in Gobert's absence, will still be able to play a major role.

Elsewhere, Raul Neto will also be available to play after hamstring issues have sidelined him for the last couple of games. Rodney Hood remains out with his left ankle soreness; he did not practice on Sunday.

For the Wizards, All-Star John Wall will not play due to a knee injury; he doesn't have a return timeline in mind.

Alec Burks' development

Donovan Mitchell's taken the headlines, and rightfully so, but Burks has been a major beneficiary of Hood's absence recently. Over the last three games, Burks is averaging 22.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.7 steals per game.

What's led to Burks' improvement? "I think an expanded role, with people being out. I can be on the court more and just catch a rhythm," Burks said. "My rhythm's been good, my timing's been good, and I can read better."

That's what I've been most impressed about over this recent stretch: Burks' decision making and effort on the defensive end has been wildly different this week — better than any point in his NBA career, not just since his recovery from injuries. Interestingly, Burks credited one of his teammates for his improvement on defense.

"It's been Thabo (Sefolosha). I'm with Thabo every day. He's known for his defense, and we talk about it all the time," Burks explained. "I think he's the one that really got it for me. That's how I improved, talking to him, being on the same court as him. He can guard one through five. He just tells me secrets he knows, he's learned over his time in the league, and I'm just trying to go out there and be like him basically."

And on the offensive end, he's been much more in control with his finishing. After a horrendous start to the season shooting layups, Burks is having more success by putting himself in easier positions. "I got tired of falling; it hurts. I was out a long time falling," Burks said. "I was just tired of being banged up by it."

"I want to chase my daughter around. I can't do that if I'm in a boot. That's definitely a thing I think about, hitting that floor."

Whatever explains Burks' 180-degree turnaround, it's been great to see, and at a perfect time as the Jazz needed his contributions with Hood out.

Donovan Mitchell trying to stay humble

After a 41-point performance on Friday night, Mitchell has been the talk of the country; after all, it's the first 40-point game by a rookie since 2011, when Blake Griffin scored 47.

So what have the last couple of days been like for Mitchell?

"It's been kind of crazy. I really haven't done much. I haven't answered my phone much, I'm leaving the social media stuff alone," Mitchell said. "It was definitely a great win and a great night, and I definitely won't forget it, but now I'm ready to turn my focus towards the upcoming games which are going to be tough for us."

Mitchell still seems legitimately surprised by his own success, like it's all come more quickly and easily than he thought it would. He's trying to stay humble through the accolades. "I just have to get away from it," he says, "and then when you come back you have to be ready to keep working and keep improving."

Andy Larsen, KSL.com
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