SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz were relieved to learn Derrick Favors woke up Tuesday without pain. That hasn’t been the case for a month.
Favors returned to the lineup Monday after a 16-game absence due to pain in his lower back and hip. He scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds in 20 minutes. Favors had been the team’s best player in the early part of the season, armed with a new midrange jumper to go with an already developed post game.
The Jazz went 7-9 without Favors, though starting center Rudy Gobert and Alec Burks both missed time during that stretch to contribute to the team’s woes. Burks remains out with a broken fibula.
Favors has no specific restrictions outside of how much his conditioning will allow him to play.
“It’s a big deal,” coach Quin Snyder said. “Particularly because of what he gives us on the boards. The defensive glass and then the post on offense. His ability to score inside and his ability to defensive rebound. Those are two things that if you look at some of the games we’ve played, those have been difficult situations for us.”
The Jazz have no other player they can dump the ball to in the post and simply let them go get a basket. Gobert’s offensive game is still developing and Gordon Hayward can do so, but mainly in mismatch situations. Favors is a mismatch himself with the ability to step out and shoot the jumper and was considered a borderline all-star this season.
Then the back and hip flared up.
“I couldn’t tie my shoe,” Favors said. “I couldn’t bend down and put my shoes on. I couldn’t put my shorts on. It was hard for me to walk a little bit. I couldn’t really get out of the bed without feeling pain. It was tough. Let alone trying to run and jump. It was tough. I could barely walk. It was definitely frustrating because I didn’t know how long it was going to last. There was a lot of stuff going through my head.”
The Jazz defense was a shell of itself with Gobert and Favors out of the lineup — their top two rim protectors. Favors also has the lateral movement to switch on pick-and-rolls without being a liability.
The Jazz have fallen to No. 10 in the Western Conference and a game and a half out of the playoffs. Injuries have played a significant role as Gobert and Favors have played just 14 games together this season.
ROSTER TWEAK: The Jazz signed Erick Green to a 10-day contract Tuesday. The 6-foot-3 guard from Virginia Tech was called up from the D-League’s Reno Bighorns. The move came with the team down to just one point guard, Trey Burke, after rookie Raul Neto suffered a concussion Monday. He is going through the NBA’s concussion protocol. Green averaged 26.7 points, 4.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 23 games with the Bighorns this season.