SALT LAKE CITY — After being in Utah for just a couple of months, Jazz rookie point guard Raul Neto is starting to feel comfortable both on and off the court.
Neto got his first start Friday night in Phoenix, scoring six points in 23 minutes and says he feels more at ease on the basketball court, thanks to his teammates and coaches. In Monday night’s game, Neto’s minutes were cut back as he played just 10 minutes and scored two points wth one assist.
“Each game I’m getting more comfortable with the team and with the plays, with everything, so I’m feeling great,’’ he said. “You always have somebody close to you, helping you. I really like it here.’’
Neto said things are quite a bit different than he’s used to in Spain where he’s played professionally the last few seasons, including more practice time and more coaching (“We have like 10 coaches and we had like three in Spain,’’ he said.) Games are different too.
“The game is faster and the people are taller and stronger than in Spain,’’ he said. “I think that’s the most different. After that, basketball is basketball.’’
As far as his life off the court, Neto said everything is going well and that it hasn’t been too big of an adjustment because he has already lived on his own for a year.
“It’s been good dash — the Jazz staff is helping me a lot with everything,’’ he said. “English is the most thing I have to improve now. I already have my home, already have my car, am going to dinner with my teammates, so everything is good. English is the big thing now.’’
HOME CROWD: Neto was making his home debut Monday night and playing in front of the EnergySolutions crowd for the first time.
“I’m excited, I want to see those fans,’’ he said before the game. “I think they are the greatest fans in the league, I’ve always heard about. I’m excited to play here.’’
LILLARD MISSES GAME: Damian Lillard, who still has a ton of fans in Utah because of his collegiate career at Weber State, didn’t suit up for the Blazers Monday night because of sprained left ankle.
The all-star guard missed the Blazers’ last home game against the Sacramento Kings Saturday night, a 94-90 loss and was kept out again Monday. Third-year guard C.J. McCollum scored 30 points in the loss.
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz will play Portland again Sunday night at the Moda Center in Portland before returning home for a pair of home games Tuesday against Oklahoma City and Thursday against Denver . . . On Friday night, the Jazz will hold a free open practice at EnergySolutions Arena at 6:30 p.m. with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Head coach Quin Snyder will lead the practice and wear a microphone to talk about the drills his team is doing . . . After the two home games next week, the Jazz will be done with the preseason schedule and head out the following week on a three-game road trip to begin the regular season.