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There are always so many new hurdles thrown at rookie NBA players. They’re just getting used to the brutal nature of an 82-game schedule, the mental gymnastics needed to move on from losses with rapid speed and not be overly satisfied with any one win.

Then there’s all the stuff on the court. Take Jazz rookie Walker Kessler for example. Clearly he is extremely talented and he’s learning at a rapid rate, but there’s a huge difference now that he’s playing against the biggest, strongest, most talented players in the world.

“He understands that every every game is a new thing and that every night — especially when he’s starting — he’s going to be playing against really, really high-level players,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “In college and in his high school days, I’m sure Walker was the biggest player on the court in every game he ever played in, and so you get used to just kind of being able to jump up over everybody and grab (rebounds), and at this level that’s just not how it works.”

Hardy went on to explain that Kessler has started to understand the physicality necessary for success on the glass but that it has taken some trial by fire in order for him to learn those lessons.

The same can be said for Jazz rookie Ochai Agbaji, who has been getting more minutes recently.

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“It’s good to have a little bit of failure in a game,” Hardy said after the Jazz’s win over the Clippers on Wednesday. “Then, can you re-center yourself and then the next time you step on the court in this game, the next time you get subbed in, can you come in with a different approach and execute a little bit better? It’s never going to be perfect, and I think Ochai did a great job tonight.”

The Jazz rookies are starting to get used to the idea that it’s not about being perfect, or winning, or even having a nice a statline. Instead, they’re seeing that success for their early careers means stringing together multiple nights where they have learned and incrementally gotten better, even if it doesn’t show up in a box score and even if they don’t learn right away.

But maybe more importantly, they are learning that they have what it takes to be an impactful player in this league and they’re gaining confidence along the way.

New with the Jazz

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This week in Jazz history

On Jan. 20, 2000, the Utah Jazz’s Karl Malone reached the 43,000-minute plateau in Utah’s 94-89 victory over Vancouver to become the eighth player in NBA history to pass that mark.

Stat of the week

Jordan Clarkson leads the league in fouls drawn on 3-point shots. His 24 fouls drawn on 3-point attempts are more than Jayson Tatum and Stephen Curry’s 21 and James Harden’s 18.

From the archives

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Extra points

  • Mike Conley addresses the most recent batch of Jazz trade rumors (KSL.com)
  • Can Will Hardy still dunk? What about Mike Conley? (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Danny Ainge on iconic play vs. Notre Dame, trading Jazz All-Stars and more (Deseret News)
  • Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur and Truck Robinson recall All-Star memories (Deseret News)

Around the league

Bulls beat Pistons in NBA showcase in Paris.

Knicks Mitchell Robinson out at least 3 weeks after thumb surgery.

NBA All-Star voting ends on Saturday.

Up next

Jan. 23 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Charlotte Hornets | AT&T SportsNet

Jan. 25 | 8 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Portland Trail Blazers | AT&T SportsNet

Jan. 28 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Dallas Mavericks | AT&T SportsNet

Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) shoots over Utah Jazz guard Ochai Agbaji (30) during the game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News