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Jazz players have been ejected a lot this season, but it may have a silver lining



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Hassan Whiteside was upset.

In the first quarter of Utah's 110-104 win over Oklahoma City, the Jazz center thought he'd been fouled. Like many other players before him, he turned to ref Marc Davis and pleaded his case; and like many players before him, Davis decided he had said a bit too much.

After playing just three minutes, Whiteside's night was done.

It turns out, Jazz players have been upset a number of times this season. Through their first 18 games, Utah has had six players ejected. Sure, three of those came from a single incident against Indiana, but that's still a lot.

There is more, too; Rudy Gobert leads the league in technical fouls with six and Donovan Mitchell is tied for 12th with three.

"I guess we wake up on the wrong side of the pillow — I guess that's the expression — some days," Mitchell said with a smile when asked about the growing number of ejections.

There's really nothing the Jazz are doing different than any other team; all teams argue, all teams get in scuffles, and all teams make some iffy flagrant fouls. Joe Ingles was given a flagrant 2 and was ejected for slightly undercutting Sacramento's Davion Mitchell in the first week of the season. It's a call that appeared to many as a bit of an overreaction.

Whiteside was ejected a few days later after a minor pushing match with Denver's JaMychal Green. It was a typical pushing match that now almost always leads to players getting tossed.

Gobert, MItchell and Ingles were all ejected for their role in the Gobert-Myles Turner hugging/wrestling/nudging altercation — those were all earned.

Then came Whiteside's two quick technicals on Wednesday due to arguing a non-call.

"I didn't think Hassan deserved that one," Mitchell said. "I think we've all seen people say a lot more to get thrown out, especially early. I told Marc that I thought it was a real quick second one."

There hasn't been anything abnormal or consistent about the ejections. Utah isn't making questionable or dirty fouls, and they don't seem to be searching for fights (well, maybe a little — Gobert did pretty much challenge everyone in the league to a bout).

There's no real reason at this point to think the ejections will continue to be a common theme, but it's merely a strange footnote on the season so far. A footnote, though, that could strangely lead to a positive down the road. Most of the ejections came late in the game; Whiteside's didn't. Utah had to play three quarters without a true backup center.

For all the fans that wanted to see the Jazz play small-ball last season in the playoffs, you got it on Wednesday. The results? Um, not good; heck, it looked like a layup line at times for the Thunder.

"We were adjusting, getting things figured out, and that's part of being a good team just figuring things on the fly," Mitchell said. "You can't prepare for that happening, but it happens."

Mitchell admitted it had been a long time since the Jazz switched everything on defense. That led to breakdowns, blown assignments and ultimately opened up lanes for the Thunder.

It ultimately revealed what we already knew: Utah's perimeter defense is less than ideal. For a small-ball lineup featuring either Eric Paschall or Rudy Gay at center to work, the Jazz have to be able to contain on the perimeter; if they can't, any thought of rolling out the lineup in the playoffs seems ill-advised, at best.

Under another light, though, Wednesday could be simply the start of the preparation to do just that. Utah now knows what it needs to do to be better in those situations.

"I thought Eric did a really good job being thrown into a situation that he hasn't been in before," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "I thought he competed. … Having that size and rim protection is really systematically the way that we play. So for those guys to be put in that situation, I think competitively we responded."

And they figured it out enough to at least get the win.

"It's just prepping us," Jordan Clarkson said. "It's part of the process and it's gonna help us get better."

It's a bit of a silver lining to the growing list of ejections.

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