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Jazz turn to the G League to help with Jared Butler's development

Jared Butler practices with the Utah Jazz at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021.

Jared Butler practices with the Utah Jazz at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — It's become a near-daily occurrence for Jared Butler.

He's assigned to the Salt Lake City Stars for practice only to be recalled by the Utah Jazz a few hours later.

Butler, the rookie from Baylor, hasn't seen many meaningful minutes this season; and with Trent Forrest having claimed the last guard spot in Quin Snyder's rotation, Butler has been at the end of the bench, sitting and waiting.

The thing is, sitting and waiting doesn't usually lead to development. With the Jazz practice schedule hit or miss, at best, Butler's time with the Stars has given him a chance to get some time in.

The Stars play the same system as the Jazz and execute the same plays, so the extra practice is simply to help Butler, who the Jazz still value highly, added opportunities to get up to speed.

"There's this balance between being sharp and being recovered, and for our young guys getting them reps as opposed to recovering when we have a full rotation, especially when we're healthy," Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said. "This is an opportunity for those guys to get a bunch of reps."

Outside of a couple games Mike Conley sat out due to resting on back-to-back games (something that will continue throughout the course of the season) and Donovan Mitchell missing one contest with a minor sprained ankle, the Jazz's guard line has been fully healthy. But those games have cast a light on where Butler stands in the pecking order.

It's been Forrest, a second-year guard from Florida State, that has been getting the extra minutes; Forrest has been good defensively and can run the system. Those positives have given him the edge over Butler, but the rookie guard's potential ceiling is still immensely higher.

He just needs some reps to grow more comfortable in NBA schemes. Butler said during his time with the Stars the focus has been on his defense — learning to fight over screens and have presence guarding the ball.

When the Jazz told Butler of the plan of using the G League to help him further his development, they made sure he didn't think of it as a demotion. Utah has famously used the G League to help develop players like Rudy Gobert and Georges Niang, and they wanted to see Butler thrive the same way.

"I think they made it a point not to make the situation seem negative because there's a negative connotation with going to the G League," Butler said. "They just made it a point of emphasis that 'Jared, we still believe in you. We feel like this is the best thing for you at this specific time.'"

Still, it's been a little difficult for Butler to look around the league and see other members of his draft class playing big roles and getting big minutes for their clubs. He's realized, however, that if he was in similar situations, he'd likely be playing the same amount of time.

The minutes just aren't there on a title-contending team.

"I've got to really put my situation in perspective and don't look to the left or right. 'Oh, they're doing this, I'm not doing that,'" Butler said.

He's confident his time in an NBA rotation will come, and he's just trying to make sure he's ready for that. Some practice time — and maybe even some games — with the Stars will only help him there.

"It's a weird place I'm in for sure," he said. "But I'm a basketball player and I know my opportunities are gonna come. So I just try not to look at it like this, this is going to be my life forever. You know what I mean? It's a long season, and I just try to get better every day."

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