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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz held practice on Friday ahead of their matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Here's what's going on around the team.
Jazz defensive habits
At practice on Friday, the Jazz's focus was on re-establishing their defensive habits, which have clearly experienced some slippage over the last few weeks. In six of the last seven games, the Jazz have allowed a defensive rating of 115 or more, below 20th percentile and certainly not the kind of defense that the Jazz wanted to be known for.
"We had a rough stretch where we couldn't practice much. Today was a great practice to re-establish those habits," Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio explained.
And part of the problem, according to both Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and Rubio, is that the Jazz are relying on big minutes from people who are new to Snyder's defensive system.
"There are a lot of guys who are new here, and in the beginning when you have practice, you remember all that stuff," Rubio explained. "When you're tired, you go to the habits that you have, you go to your old team habits, which are not the same as here."
We received an update from Jazz PR on the status of Raul Neto today at practice. Neto has missed the last six Jazz games due to a concussion suffered against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Neto, it turns out, also suffered a left knee bone bruise as part of the play. It's my understanding that as part of the NBA's return to play protocol after a concussion, Neto has to meet certain athletic benchmarks in order to return to action. It now seems that it's not the concussion, but the bone bruise, that is preventing him from hitting those benchmarks.
Neto remains out for Saturday's game and will be out until he's back at 100 percent, able to complete those tests.
Rudy Gobert worked out after the Jazz's practice on Friday, shooting a little bit. We hope to learn more about his status after being re-evaluated tomorrow.
For the Cavaliers, All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas will not play against the Jazz, though that had been a date some had targeted for his return. He'll continue to rehab and practice with the team, trying to return to play next week.
Ricky Rubio award
Rubio won the November NBA Cares Community Assist Award, thanks to the work he did during the month to promote cancer research. The award is given to one NBA player per month who "best reflects the passion that the league and its players share for giving back to their communities," according to the press release.
This season, Rubio has:
- Hosted "Ricky Rubio Lung Cancer Awareness Night" on Nov. 25, giving away 500 tickets to the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Special Olympics.
- Visited the Huntsman Cancer Institute, visiting patients undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer.
- Represented the 5 for the Fight Foundation, including during the Jazz's "Game Night with the Utah Jazz" fundraiser that raised over $550K.
- Worked for the "Tona Vives Lung Cancer Awareness Fund", named for his mother who died of Lung Cancer in 2016. That fund has raised $60K so far for the fund's Lung Cancer Fellowship research program.
Clearly, the work means a lot to Rubio and he noted how fortunate it was that he was traded to a team that has a cancer charity as its jersey sponsor. Though Rubio has struggled in a big way on the floor since coming to Utah, his work off the court has never been more impactful.
Donovan Mitchell line
Donovan Mitchell is making an appearance on Friday at the Stance store at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, and by all accounts, the turnout has been insane.
The Deseret News' Eric Woodyard reported that 1,100 people came out to meet Mitchell and get a chance to have something signed by him.
The line at @stance to see @spidadmitchell today was INSANE. Wow! pic.twitter.com/AaTwSg10VU — Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) December 30, 2017
And another fan tweeted a picture of the lengthy line outside of the mall, with people waiting to meet Mitchell.
This shouldn't be a surprise, but Mitchell is clearly the Jazz's hottest commodity right now.
New social media director
The Jazz are getting a new social media manager.
Angie Treasure, a former audience development manager here at KSL.com and a frequent writer of our "Have You Seen This" feature here at the website, has accepted a job running the Jazz's social media presence. Congratulations to Angie!