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Utah Jazz notes: Enes Kanter encouraged to shoot deep and from behind the line

Enes Kanter poses for a photo as the Utah Jazz hold their media day Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Salt Lake City at the Zions Bank basketball center.
Enes Kanter poses for a photo as the Utah Jazz hold their media day Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Salt Lake City at the Zions Bank basketball center.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PORTLAND, Ore. — Enes Kanter got a pleasant surprise when Quin Snyder came to visit him this past offseason while the Jazz big man was rehabbing his knee in Chicago.

The surprise wasn’t the visit from his new coach.

It was Snyder’s message.

“Coach Q came to visit me and we went to a gym. He said, ‘You know you’re going to shoot some threes this year, right?’ ” Kanter said, smiling. “I was just like shocked that the first time he met me he gave me that confidence. It means a lot to me.”

Kanter had only taken three shots in 3-point territory (and made one) in his first three seasons while he mostly played center. But the 6-foot-11 fourth-year player, who’s now starting in the power forward position, unleashed two treys in the Jazz’s preseason-opener and drained one.

“I’ve been working really hard on the three,” Kanter said. “My teammates and my coaches give me that confidence. I really appreciate it.”

The young Turk said he got a pre-camp pep talk from compatriot Mehmet Okur, one of the franchise’s all-time best 3-pointer shooters who recently agreed to be a team ambassador for the Jazz.

“I talked to Memo before the preseason and he told me to use my legs and he talked to me about it a little bit,” Kanter said. “I think he really helped, too.”

In Snyder’s offensive system, the power forwards are supposed to occasionally stretch the floor by extending their roam beyond the 3-point line. Snyder said that applies to backup big Trevor Booker, too.

“We want those guys to be threats on the 3-point line. … Anytime you have people that can space the floor, it helps driving lanes,” Snyder explained. “It helps bigs in the post. So yeah, it makes it easier for Enes, too. He’s able to stretch the floor.”

Snyder added that he continues to emphasize to Kanter that he doesn’t want him to stop a foot inside the arc. He wants him behind the line, even when he’s not shooting. That, the coach said, “takes advantage of the spacing” and gives the Jazz a statistical edge.

"I believe he has 3-point range, so if he’s taking long twos, just from a percentage basis, it’s not good for him, it’s not good for us," Snyder said. "We want to attack the rim and get good stuff there. The long twos for a guy that can shoot threes, it’s just got to be a habit of his to space behind the line."

Kanter badly missed his first 3-point attempt in Friday's rematch with Portland.

NBA FUTURE: Former Jazz point guard Earl Watson recently wrapped up his NBA playing career to take an assistant coaching position with the Austin Toros in the D-League.

Watson, who played for Utah from 2010-13, often talked about his desire to coach after his playing days were over.

Portland coach Terry Stotts, who jokingly called him “Coach Watson” when he played for the Blazers last season, doesn’t think it will be too long before the 35-year-old is back in the NBA, eventually as a head coach.

“He’ll probably coach in the NBA someday. He has a great basketball mind. He sees the court very well,” Stotts said before Friday’s Jazz-Blazers game. “He relates well to players.

“I think going to the San Antonio system gives him another perspective on basketball. He’s played for a lot of excellent coaches. I think he’s learned wherever he’s been. I think he has a bright future.”

NO EXCUSES: Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward made it clear that he thought the recent Rookie Dance-Off was terrible, not counting the fun performance of 5-year-old Jazz superstar JP Gibson.

Rookie Rodney Hood was dealing with a right hip flexor strain at the time, but he said his poor performance was out of the goodness of his own heart.

“I wanted to let JP get his shine,” Hood said, laughing. “That’s my story. I’m sticking to it.”

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