MILWAUKEE - As the Utah Jazz roster filed off their bus and into Fiserv Forum for shootaround yesterday, a familiar, yet unwelcome sight was among them. Dante Exum, with a heavy limp, slowly made his way out onto the court, his left ankle heavily taped.
Exum suffered a severe ankle sprain during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday morning, forcing him off the court and the prospect of another stint on the sidelines. Early reports suggest he may miss up to two weeks, which when all things are considered, is a great result for the 23-year-old Australian, who has already been through two long-term injuries in his short NBA career.
Speaking with The Pick and Roll pregame, Jazz head coach, Quin Snyder, revealed what followed in the aftermath of the injury.
"I called him last night after the incident and wanted to press upon him that this is different," Snyder revealed.
"It’s important for him to know that what happened to him the other night is different. Dante has established himself, and there’s levels of establishment, but what he’s done over the last month, his game's taken a step, and he’s taken a step."
Exum was in the midst of arguably the best stretch of his NBA career, averaging 13.4 points and 5.8 assists in the five games prior to the injury. On top of that, Exum had suited up in 38 of his squad's first 39 games, finally rewarded with some consistent playing time, and producing on another level.
Snyder, always a passionate voice, smiled when discussing not only what Exum has produced in recent times, but when reasserting the fact that this latest injury, is but a minor setback.
"Even though he played well at the beginning of last year, I remember him in Summer League before he hurt his knee. There was always these flashes, but you can see him growing.
"Anyone that’s seen our team play over the last month, there’s a pang because you can just feel what’s coming. He’s going to pick up right where he left off."
The shorthanded Jazz ultimately ran out of gas in Milwaukee, with the Bucks outscoring Utah 31-16 in the fourth quarter to run out 114-102 winners. The loss of Exum was amplified by starting point guard Ricky Rubio exiting the game in the first period with a right hamstring injury.
Exum was still smiling at shootaround yesterday morning, evidence that his latest injury just a minor bump in the road, when put in context with what he's already been through. With the NBA regular season just reaching the halfway point, there's ample time for Exum to return and help Utah continue their surge into playoff contention in the Western conference.
*Exum was unavailable for comment due to his injury status.