SALT LAKE CITY — In the season-opening matchup between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets on Oct. 18 at Vivint Arena, former Jazzman Trey Lyles performed the same role with the Nuggets he had at the end of his time with Utah, only entering the game with 1:31 left and Denver down by 16.
But, due in large part to a left wrist injury that will keep another former Jazzman, Paul Millsap, sidelined for the next few months, Lyles has seen a major uptick in his playing time over the last week and a half. In Denver’s last four contests entering Tuesday night, he averaged 19 minutes per game after logging more than six minutes just once in the Nuggets’ first 15 games of the season.
On Tuesday night at Vivint Arena, the third-year lottery pick out of Kentucky, who was traded by Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey to Denver on draft night last June along with the 24th pick (Tyler Lydon) in exchange for Donovan Mitchell (the 13th pick), finished with six points, two rebounds and a steal in just under 18 minutes in a 106-77 loss.
“I have so much respect for Trey Lyles because he came into a situation where we have a glut of power forwards, and there were no minutes for him,” Denver head coach Michael Malone said before the game. “I kept on reminding him and talking to him through that, imploring him to stay positive and to stay ready, and to his credit he did. He never once felt sorry for himself.”
Instead, Malone said, Lyles began upping his preparation, arriving to practice early and staying late, and ,while the coach said he never wants to see a player get injured, because Lyles has stayed ready both mentally and physically, he has been in line for more minutes.
After checking into the contest at the 4:00 minute mark of the first quarter, Lyles finished the opening half with four points, two rebounds and a steal in 10 minutes. He then played the final 2:07 of the third quarter and the first 5:49 of the fourth.
“I’m just getting used to playing with the guys and being on the floor,” Lyles said afterward. “I’m just trying to contribute in any way that I can … tonight was a tough one for everybody, I think.”
As for the other components of the trade that sent Lyles to the Mile High City, Mitchell finished with 16 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Lydon, who has split time between Denver and the G League, made the trip but was designated inactive before the game and thus did not play.