MILWAUKEE — It had been two days since Dante Exum suffered his latest injury — an ankle sprain during Utah’s win over Cleveland on Friday — and Jazz coach Quin Snyder wanted to give him a message.
So Snyder called him to let him know one thing: This time it’s different.
This isn’t like the ACL tear that stole a season or the shoulder injury that stole nearly another one. Exum will be back sooner than later and the progress he’s made over the last month will still be there.
“I think it’s important for him to know,” Snyder said. “What’s happened over the last month is Dante has established himself. There’s a level of establishment. But what he has done of the last month, his game has taken a step and he has taken a step.”
After falling out of the Utah rotation at the beginning of December, Exum was one of the Jazz’s most consistent players over the last three weeks. In his last 12 games, he averaged 9.1 points, 4.3 assists in 18.1 minutes and helped stabilize what had been a shakey Utah bench unit. It was the consistency of the play and how Exum has asserted himself that has made Snyder believe that he has taken a jump.
Snyder mentioned how Exum has played well before — last season before his shoulder injury and Summer League before he injured his ACL — but this time is different.
“There’s always these flashes,” Snyder said. “You can see him growing. He’s going to pick up right where he left off.”
Exum’s absence was felt even more Monday night in Milwaukee after Ricky Rubio had to exit the game in the first quarter. Rubio contested Eric Bledsoe on a layup attempt and when he landed, he immediately asked to be taken out of the game. He was visibly frustrated walking back to the locker room and moments later it was obvious why. Rubio was quickly ruled out of the game with a right hamstring injury.