Instead of the Jazz / Heat game that had been scheduled, 2700 fans crowded the Salt Lake City Community Centre to watch the Pro Players Charity Classic, which pitted the hometown heroes against an NBA contingent, among which were Kings pick Jimmer Fredette, former Jazzer Wesley Matthews, Chauncey Bilips, and Stephen Curry. Utah made good, routing the NBA stalwarts 149-124.
It may not have been the surrogate All-Star game that took place in OKC, but at least Utah got to see some basketball again. Most of all, it gave Jazz rookies like center Enes Kanter their first time playing in SLC.
Kanter didn’t have a great time, however – he logged six minutes in the first half, and got smashed out of the game by Derrick Favors’s elbow.
As for the game itself, the rooks won the day, with Alec Burks downing a team-high 29 points, and headliner Jimmy Fredette knocking in 19.
As it went on, the game began to resemble an All-Star outing, with defense becoming less and less of an issue. The final moments turned into an audience-pleasing marathon of three-pointers and showboat dunks. Jeremy Evans shined, pulling out a crowd-pleasing performance that had him sailing into the air with 360 dunks.
The game wasn’t a momentous event, but it was a good showcase for rookie skills, the Jazz, and fan favourites like Fredette, who showed off some slick talents, even if his defending needed a little work.
The Jazzers were grateful for the opportunity to play. “It’s great,” Burks said. “I haven’t heard a whistle blow in a long time, so it’s great to get here and just have some fun.”
“We play pick-up (games) three times a week,” Jazz’s Al Jefferson said. “It was fun to be out in front of the fans. I think it was more for them.”
As with the OKC show, players had a lot to say about the lockout after the game, with Stephen Curry saying, “I’m always optimistic. It’s just been up and down with these negotiations and it’s tough to get on the inside of what’s actually going down in the room where they’re talking.”
The game was streamed live to Deseretnews.com and ksl.com.