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Jared Butler is hopeful opportunity will come after rocky rookie season


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SALT LAKE CITY — It seemed like every day of his rookie season was a new experience for Jared Butler.

One day, he could be grappling with the fact that he was playing against Chris Paul and LeBron James. The next, he was sent to the G League circuit with the Salt Lake City Stars. Then there was being in a new state as a young professional trying to find a spot.

"Just a lot of learning and a lot of first time things; and for me, it felt like a life experience," Butler said.

One part of that experience was that he was, obviously, disappointed by his inconsistent role on the team. He was on a veteran-laden team that hoped to be a contender; that doesn't usually result in a lot of playing time.

Butler played in 42 games this season

and saw action in one playoff game — Utah's blowout loss in Game 4 to the Dallas Mavericks.

Butler may have had plenty of what he described as "pivotal" movements during his first year in the NBA, but he wasn't really pivotal to Utah's plans on the court. He's hoping that changes next season.

In his exit interview with general manager Justin Zanik, Butler was told to "be prepared" for next season. Yes, that sounds like run-of-the-mill advice for a new player, but there's more to it than that. The Jazz could face a number of changes this summer after a disappointing early exit from the playoffs. That could push Butler up in the rotation.

"I think opportunity will come in the near future," Butler said.

Does that hint at Utah's offseason plans? Or is that just a sign of Butler's faith in himself and that things will work out?

It's likely a combination of the two.

"Jared Butler was a huge, huge, huge piece in the mental stability of it all," Nickeil Alexander-Walker said. "Being a follower of God and having someone like him to talk to about fellowship. And he was going through the same thing as a rookie as me."

Alexander-Walker played in 47 games his rookie season before he was able to carve out a role with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Butler's offseason plans include going to Houston to work out with the same group he did before his final year at Baylor. That ended with a national championship and a most outstanding player award at the Final Four.

"I think it worked well for me," he said.

That's putting it lightly. And now, he's hoping it has a similar effect.

When asked what needs to happen in order for him to carve out a bigger role on the team, he said it was doing everything at a higher level.

"I gotta be able to do all things at a high level and that's like shooting the ball off the dribble guarding the pick and the roll, being able to guard my position and even the two position. I think being able to get guys involved is just kind of something that I think that the Jazz are looking for from from me," Butler said.

He plans to grow athletically to be able to sustain a full season. He'll work on adding finishing moves around the rim in order to score against longer and taller opponents. And he wants to elevate everything he's already doing: passing, shooting, reading the game, etc.

"I've just got to be able to do it at a high level," Butler said.

Due to his pre-draft health concerns, Butler wasn't able to workout for teams, and the Jazz opted to keep him out of Summer League, as well. Which is why Zanik said he was excited for Butler to experience a more normal offseason prep — and to see where that pushes his game.

Because the Jazz might need him a lot more next season.

"There is some overall uncertainty from just an NBA standpoint — you know how summers are with NBA — so I just think it's encouraging," Butler said.

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