Alec Burks, George Hill partially participate in Jazz practice



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SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz only briefly practiced at the Zions Bank Basketball Center today before hopping on a plane to Los Angeles where they'll play the Lakers Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. MT. Here's an injury-themed update on where the Jazz stand after taking Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to rest.

Injury report

Once again, the biggest topic of conversation at practice Monday was the health of the Jazz's players. But what was unusual was that the team actually had some good news to share.

Both George Hill and Alec Burks both partially participated in practice. For Hill, that's the first time since he missed the game on Dec. 1 thanks to his sprained big toe. Hill's ability to push off forward is still limited by the toe, but his lateral movement is nearly there.

For Burks, it's been even longer: It's the first time he's been at practice since his surgery on Nov. 1, he hasn't played a game since the end of last season. Today's the 1-year anniversary of the original injury he suffered in a game against the L.A. Clippers. He's moving well, and now the team just wants to establish that he has the strength and balance needed to ensure he doesn't reinjure his leg.

"It's hard to judge him, we didn't do much," Quin Snyder said. More than anything, it looks like he's moving good. That's the main thing."

The team didn't do any contact drills or full 5-on-5 play today, so this doesn't signal that Hill's or Burks' return to play is imminent. But it still represents the best piece of official news the team has released on both players.

"There's going to be an integration process, too, where the team starts to form after a third of the season. How different guys are impacted by different guys coming back," Snyder said.

"But those are good problems to have, as they say."

Getting more effective on the court

Both Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood played in the Jazz's last game Friday against Toronto, but both were still at less than 100 percent, due to injury and illness.

Derrick Favors is still on a slowly-increasing minutes restriction as he returns from the knee issues that cost him 14 games this season. "He hasn't played as much with Rudy (Gobert), so it's hard to evaluate him until we're using him" as the team intends to, Snyder said.

Nearly every aspect of Favors' game has been impacted by his lack of explosion, but there are a few that stand out: how well he's able to finish on his jump shot, how he's able to finish despite contact around the rim, and how many fouls he picks up. Snyder is watching his progress carefully. "I think he's played in spurts. He didn't have as good as a first half last game, but he was more effective in the second half."

Rodney Hood is now completely healthy, after playing just 14 minutes against Toronto due to his sickness.

"I'm feeling a lot better. I'm getting my energy back, getting some of my weight back. I feel good right now," Hood said.

The sickness is completely gone, but there's still a process of returning to playing at peak performance. "I'm drinking, eating everything. I think I'll be ready," Hood said.

Record by number of injured starters

Obviously, the Jazz's injury troubles this year have had an impact on their record this season. The team is 18-13 overall, but how have they played depending on how many of their starters (Hill, Hood, Gordon Hayward, Favors, and Rudy Gobert) are out?

  • 0 starters: 1-0
  • 1 starter: 13-4
  • 2 starters: 3-7
  • 3 starters: 1-2
That doesn't take into account the games where Hood or Favors have been able to play only minor minutes due to their various maladies, nor does it account for injured bench players like Burks, Boris Diaw, or Dante Exum.

In other words, just having 1 starter out would constitute major progress for the Jazz. Having a full starting lineup would really let both fans and the organization see what they have with this year's team.

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Andy Larsen

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