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What to expect from the Jazz's preseason opener tonight

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) walks in for an interview during the Utah Jazz media media day at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) walks in for an interview during the Utah Jazz media media day at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY β€” So it begins.

Well, sort of.

The Utah Jazz will open up their four-game preseason schedule Monday on the road against the San Antonio Spurs in a game that has been deemed so important by the franchise that it won't even be broadcast locally (even for those who have something other than Dish).

But even for a veteran squad, there's purpose behind the tune-up games.

"All it is for real is just preparing," Jordan Clarkson said. "Putting in stuff we're gonna use during the year. We got new additions. We all try to put all that stuff in during this period of time. Just trying to get a flow so we get rolling into the regular season."

So while the results don't really matter, the Jazz want to use the next couple weeks to be in a position to hit the ground running when the tip things off for real on Oct. 21.

"Obviously, the ultimate goal is to be as prepared as you can be going into the regular season, and even that you can define a lot of different ways," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.

Due to some circumstances, the Jazz may get some help in preparing in different ways. Utah will be without veteran forwards Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gay on Monday. Bogdanovic is recovering from a sore shoulder, and Gay is still getting back from offseason surgery on his left heel. Bogdanovic isn't expected to miss any regular season games; Gay, meanwhile, will likely miss at least the first part of the season.

But with injuries comes opportunity. Their absences will likely give even more time for Eric Paschall to show what he can do in the Jazz system. Paschall had to adapt his game since being traded to Utah in August, turning in his midrange game, which he calls his "bread and butter," in order to step outside to shoot 3s.

"I'm just trying to prove myself, regardless of if (anyone) was hurt or not," Paschall said. "I've just got to get my foot in the door. Bring some intensity, toughness and do that every day regardless of who is hurt or not."

The preseason will also be the first game time action for rookie Jared Butler since being drafted in July. The first-year guard from Baylor turned some heads during Utah's Zoom practice on Saturday when he crossed over Mike Conley to get into the paint and then finished over Rudy Gobert.

Last week, Butler said he hadn't really had a "welcome to the NBA" moment in practice. Moves like that sure help in keeping up.

"He's been playing really well," Clarkson said. "He has a great pace. He's shifty, he's able to get to a spot and be able to finish."

Clarkson did offer some defense of Conley.

"For Mike's sake, his legs and stuff don't turn on till about seven and after that. Take what you want from that film," he said, smiling. "But Jared's been a great player, through this whole training camp. Playing, learning and everything so it's been really good."

With a team full of veterans and proven players, Butler could see plenty of action to help further his acclimation to the NBA. Snyder knows what he has in Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Clarkson, Joe Ingles, etc, now, is a good time to see if any on the back end of the roster can make a case for more rotational minutes.

"Someone can play really well and you see him in a different light, and we'd want to explore that," Snyder said. "So I think it's good to be open minded going in."

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