SALT LAKE CITY — On Monday morning, Emmanuel Mudiay got a message from Jazz head coach Quin Snyder: Be prepared to play.
It wasn’t long ago that Mudiay was a key member of Utah’s rotation. Before the Jazz traded for Jordan Clarkson, he was the first guard off the bench. And when Mike Conley was rehabbing his hamstring injury, Mudiay was part of an improving bench unit.
Along the way, he went from a questionable ball stopper to truly a valuable member of the team. But then the minutes stopped.
Since Conley’s return, Mudiay has been boxed out of the rotation. There just aren't enough minutes to go around for all of Utah’s guards. But there’s a reason why the Jazz didn’t seriously consider trading Mudiay last week — because of what he can do when he is called upon.
With Conley sitting out the second game of the back-to-back due to injury rehab on Monday, Mudiay was back in the lineup. He scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, grabbed three rebounds, and handed out a couple of assists in 15 minutes as the Jazz beat the Dallas Mavericks 123-119.
More importantly, he came through when the Jazz needed it most. Mudiay was part of a bench unit that halted a big Dallas run, cutting a 21-point lead to just 3 points in the third quarter — and then extended the lead out again to 15 points by the time the fourth quarter came around.
“They won us the game tonight,” Rudy Gobert said. “They were huge. … Emmanuel was great, Jordan (Clarkson) was great. It was a big, big performance on the bench tonight.”
Clarkson has been torching everyone recently, now averaging 21.8 points over the last seven games after scoring 25 against the Mavericks. But Mudiay hasn’t really gotten into a game.
Before Monday’s game, Mudiay had played meaningful minutes in just one game since Jan. 16, making what he did against Dallas that much more impressive.
“Emmanuel, for not playing in the last little stretch, you can’t say enough about him,” Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen said. “... It’s really hard because you get a rhythm. What has helped him is he’s been great on the bench. He hasn’t been playing, but he’s been great on the bench. He’s been involved, supporting his teammates. To have a big game like this, he was great — coming in just ready to play like he hasn’t missed a step, which is really hard to do.”
Mudiay hit his first four shots of the night, and it was his streaking layup in the third quarter that led off the Jazz’s run to end the third quarter. Mudiay ended up scoring 7 points in the final four-plus minutes of the third as the Jazz pulled away from Dallas again.
“I guess it was home cooking,” Donovan Mitchell said, referring to how Mudiay went to high school in the Dallas area.
Mitchell said it’s been impressive to see how far Mudiay has come this season. He was brought in as a low-risk move; a player that had some skills but hadn’t really put it all together. Now has some fans wondering why he isn’t playing more — even with Conley back.
Yes, it's hard to find minutes for everyone, but Mudiay showed on Monday that if he’s needed, he’ll be ready to answer the call.
“He's always been that vet — continuously being ready,” Mitchell said. “You know, not even just on the offensive end but the defensive, and pushing the pace, communicating, talking. He's grown so much since he's been here. ... I think it's pretty cool to see him and his progression.”