SALT LAKE CITY — The silver lining in the rash of injuries that have beset the Utah Jazz lately is the opportunity it’s given several bench players.
Perhaps no player has taken advantage of the opportunity more than Joe Ingles, who joined the Jazz just before the start of the regular season after being picked up on waivers from the Los Angeles Clippers.
The 6-foot-8 forward from Australia has been a solid reserve for the Jazz, playing in every game before being inserted into the starting lineup for the past two games.
In Monday’s game against Indiana, Ingles played a season-high 37 minutes and came fairly close to producing a triple-double with eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Ingles prefers to talk about the team than himself and understands the team concept.
“When you’re missing three pretty important players, it’s a whole different game,’’ Ingles said. “The good thing is our team and our offense and they we play is pretty team-oriented and everyone passes the ball.’’
He was encouraged by the way the Jazz hung in against Indiana after falling behind by 19 before nearly snatching a win in the final seconds.
“The best thing about playing with these guys is the attitude, and obviously we were missing some guys tonight and others had to step in, but we never gave up,’’ he said. “That is impressive and now we need to build on that for the next trip.’’
COMING OF ELIJAH: Jeremy Evans and Steve Novak are Jazz forwards who have been with the team all season and never played as many as 18 minutes in a game.
Yet Monday night, less than 12 hours after joining the team, forward Elijah Millsap played 18 minutes for the Jazz in a 105-101 loss. That either tells you a lot about how little Jazz coaches think of Evans and Novak or how much they think of Millsap, the 27-year-old younger brother of former Jazz forward Paul Millsap.
Elijah Millsap was signed by the Jazz after he averaged 20.6 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Bakersfield Jam this season. He was thrust into the action late in the first quarter Monday night and after a miss in the lane and an airball that sailed a couple of feet past the basket, Millsap calmed down and played some solid minutes for the Jazz.
“Things settled down for me, I was just happy to be out there,’’ Millsap said. “Coach (Snyder) came and talked to me during shootaround before the game so I just prepared my mind. He told me to play my game. I wanted to come in and play as hard as I can on defense and do whatever I can to help the team win.’’
Snyder was pleased with what he saw of Millsap in his first NBA game.
“I just wanted him to come in and compete and play hard,’’ he said. “Usually your motor is going so fast that it’s hard to shoot in that environment when you’re playing in your first NBA game. He did the things that I wanted to see him do and I was happy with his performance.’’
COMMUNICATION WOES: Snyder sounded like the prison warden in "Cool Hand Luke" who famously said, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate’’ as he talked Monday about his team’s inability to talk to each other on the court.
“Our team in general (has) a real weakness that we don’t communicate the way I would like,’’ he said. “That’s something that is a challenge, for Dante (Exum) even more so. When something is new to you and you’re not comfortable and you’re trying to figure something out, it makes it even harder to be outside yourself and talking."
Snyder acknowledged that part of the problem is the personality of the Jazz players, who are young and pretty quiet for the most part.
“That can be part of it,’’ he said. “It’s something that not a lot of people do. It’s unusual when you do have somebody with a strong voice out there. It will get easier as we have familiarity with one another and the system. We don’t have a naturally vocal group, but my guess is that as guys get older that will happen more naturally.’’
JAZZ NOTES: After the three-game road trip to Chicago, Oklahoma City and Houston, the Jazz return home for games against Golden State on Tuesday and the Los Angeles Lakers Friday. Then it’s back on the road for games at San Antonio, Cleveland and Milwaukee. … With Ingles and Exum starting Monday, it marked the first time since November 2009, when Wes Matthews and Eric Maynor started, that the Jazz started two rookies. … Exum tied his career high Monday with 13 points, and his three 3-pointers tied his career best. … Rudy Gobert has 14 blocked shots in his last four games. … Indiana’s C.J. Watson was fined $5,000 for his flop against the Jazz in Monday’s game.