Utah Jazz: Well-rested Derrick Favors ready to test sore knee against Hornets, who acquired Miles Plumlee on Friday

Utah Jazz: Well-rested Derrick Favors ready to test sore knee against Hornets, who acquired Miles Plumlee on Friday

SALT LAKE CITY — Lingering issues with his left knee have forced Derrick Favors to miss roughly one-third of the Utah Jazz’s games this season.

But, after going through a full practice Friday, Favors was pronounced good to go for Saturday night’s home game against the Charlotte Hornets.

“It feels good,” Favors said of his balky knee following Friday morning’s practice session at the Zion’s Bank Basketball Center. “The knee’s doing good. It helped (having several days off), got a lot of treatment and it feels good.”

Favors warmed up for last Saturday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, but didn’t feel like he was completely ready to play, talked to the team trainers and wound up taking the night off.

Four nights later, when the Jazz hosted the Milwaukee Bucks, the 6-foot-10 power forward sat out again and has now missed 17 of Utah’s 50 games this season.

“Just being smart,” he said, “thinking about the long-term.”

Favors, whose averages of 9.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game are his lowest since the 2011-12 season, said he doesn’t think the persistent soreness will continue to be a problem beyond this season.

“It’s not,” he said. “I’m just being smart with it, though. I missed a couple of games, it’s been sore here and there, but we’re taking the smart approach, thinking long-term, just being smart with it and making sure I’m a hundred percent healthy when we need it.

“It’s just sore, it’s just been sore from time to time. Not constantly, just here and there sometimes. I just want to be safe with it. Don’t want to overwork it, over-push it. Just want to be safe.

“We’re playing well, we’re winning, we’re playing good basketball, and I just want to be safe with it,” the seventh-year pro said.

Favors insisted that it’s “it’s not pain, it’s not pain, it’s just sore. I’m getting a lot of treatment in, working with the trainers and just making sure I’m on top of everything.

“I want to be out there playing but, like I said, I’ve just got to be smart with it, just got to look at things long-term and just be ready when the team needs me and make sure I’m 100 percent.”

Thankfully for the Jazz, guys like Boris Diaw, Trey Lyles and Joe Johnson have been available to step into Favors’ spot when needed this season, helping the Jazz to a 31-19 record.

With 32 games remaining in the regular season, they’re now tied for fourth place in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Clippers.

“We’re a deep team, got a lot of guys out there that can play and are definitely helping us out a lot,” Favors said. “They give me time to be able to get treatment, be able to take care of my issues that I have going on, and help us out a lot.”

Favors, 25, talked to another one of Utah’s young guns, shooting guard Rodney Hood, after Hood reinjured his right knee in Wednesday’s win over the Bucks.

Hood, who hyperextended the same knee on Jan. 14 against Orlando and missed the next five games, was diagnosed with a bone contusion and a Grade 1 lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain following the latest injury. Team officials announced Thursday that he’ll be reevaluated in a week.

“I told Rodney to take time with it and make sure you do all your treatment, make sure you do what you have to do to make sure your knee gets back healthy,” Favors said. “Most important, take your time with it and don’t try to rush back.”

HORNETS SHUFFLE ROSTER: Charlotte, Utah’s next opponent, currently sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference at 23-27, but the Hornets have lost six straight and 11 of their last 14 games.

The Hornets shuffled their roster Thursday by acquiring little-used center Miles Plumlee from Milwaukee in exchange for two other big men, Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes.

Plumlee has played little for the Bucks this season, averaging 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in about 10 minutes of playing time per game.

Former Jazz forward Marvin Williams averages 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Hornets this season.

SCOREBOARD WATCHING: While the Clippers’ loss Thursday night dropped them into a fourth-place tie with Utah in the Western Conference standings, the Jazz don’t seem to be paying too much attention to the NBA scoreboard.

“Not on a daily basis,” center Rudy Gobert said. “I look now and then at the other games for sure, but I’m not focused on the standings. We’ve just got to get better and win games and, at the end of the season, we will look at it very closely.”

Utah coach Quin Snyder agreed.

“When you look at the last 10 games and you see 5-5, 7-3 and 3-7, that tells you that in 10 games it could be different,” he said. “So I think those things, as the season progresses, they’re more and more relevant obviously because there’s less games so they’re more impactful.

“I don’t avoid looking at ’em by any means, but I want us to be better the next 10 than we are this 10. And that, to me, if my focus is there, that’s the best way to take care of the standings.”

FOCUS ON DEFENSE: With three days off earlier this week, the Jazz spent most of their practice time focusing on defense. That trend continued Friday following Wednesday’s win over Milwaukee.

“Last two days of practice were great,” said Gobert, Utah’s shot-blocking “Stifle Tower.” “We can see our defense played better last game, and I think we still have room to get better.”

Snyder said his team has got to keep working on certain elements of its game until they become something they do without having to think about it first.

“We believe in muscle memory and habits,” he said. “When you have a habit, sometimes it can wax and wane, so when you don’t work on things for a period of time, there’s slippage and sometimes it’s just reminding yourself mentally.

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“Sometimes with guys who haven’t played for awhile, they don’t have the habits that the other guys do and you try to balance that. But for the most part, philosophically we want things to become instinctive and you can’t have something be instinctive unless you touch it and work on it.

“Usually communication is a reflection on their mental readiness, and it’s hard to practice that,” Snyder said. “But the other stuff, the more they can be instinctual and habitual, then it’s easier to do it consistently. When you’re doing something that you don’t have to think about, you can do something else. It’s the old walk-and-chew-gum thing, right? Maybe you can do a third thing — maybe walk and chew gum and text. Yeah, that’s what we’re after.”

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Published at Sat, 04 Feb 2017 15:06:00 +0000