DENVER (ABC4 Sports) – What sophomore slump?
After struggling in the first three games of the NBA season, Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler lit it up against the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets Monday night, scoring 22 points on 10 of 11 shooting, while pulling down 13 rebounds in Utah’s 110-102 loss.
“I think that everyone has a rough patch, whether that’s on the court or in life in general,” Kessler said. “It’s just about not letting it beat you and staying positive. My teammates, coaching staff, my family did an unbelievable job of supporting me. There’s a lot worse things, obviously, than three bad games in the NBA.”
In his first three games, Kessler made just 8-of-15 shots with 17 total rebounds. But against Denver, Kessler became a force on offense.
“My teammates did a great job of making sure I got the ball in the right opportunities, Kessler said. “While we did lose this game, we won the second half, and I think if this team plays that hard, we’ve got a lot of potential.”
Kessler, who finished third in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting last season, is always going to be a force on defense. But if he’s going to be a factor on the offensive end, his teammates have to get him involved, and they did last night.
“Walker needs our team to pass for him to be effective,” said head coach Will Hardy. “We’re not running post-ups for Walker. Walker is somebody who directly benefits from his teammates.”
Kessler’s impact on the game may not always show up in the box score, but Hardy always appreciates his 7-foot-1 center’s effort night in and night out.
“Not every player as the ability to impact the game without scoring, and Walker does,” Hardy said. “His rebounding, his rim protection, running the floor on every play, being a great screener, those things do help us win.”
Despite a 1-3 record, all four games have come against playoff teams from a year ago. So as the schedule eases up a bit, Kessler thinks the Jazz will find their groove.
“We took away the fact that we beat an NBA championship team in the second half,” Kessler said. “Obviously it’s a long season, but just continuing to work on what we do best and continuing to play hard, that’s kind of where our identity lies.”
Kessler and the Jazz will next host the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night at the Delta Center.