DETROIT — On Thursday night, after a depleted Utah Jazz roster beat the Detroit Pistons, head coach Will Hardy praised the player on his roster that scored the fewest points.

“There is one person, though, that I want to like actually shout out,” he said, unprompted, following the Jazz’s 119-111 win. “We’ve talked about staying ready, we’ve talked about being professional, we’ve talked about doing your job, being a part of the team, and Luka Samanic, I thought, tonight had some really big minutes for us.”

“His impact on the game was much bigger than his stat line. To give us 10 really good minutes in the second half, in an important part of the game, after not playing meaningful minutes for a long time, I think speaks to him and his growth as a young pro.” — Jazz coach Will Hardy on Luka Samanic

Samanic has logged more DNPs this season than he has games played. He did not play in Cleveland on Wednesday night and did not play in the first half against the Pistons. But, in an attempt to inject some life into the Jazz in the third quarter of Thursday’s contest, Hardy went to Samanic, who immediately delivered.

While Samanic was on the floor he was part of a lineup that created some breathing room against the Pistons. He only scored two points (both at the free-throw line) but it was everything else he did that helped the Jazz.

He fought hard for rebounds, he ran the floor, he cut hard, rolled with precision and opened up the floor. He defended well and was meticulous in making sure that he was always covering someone when the ball went up.

“His impact on the game was much bigger than his stat line,” Hardy said. “To give us 10 really good minutes in the second half, in an important part of the game, after not playing meaningful minutes for a long time, I think speaks to him and his growth as a young pro.”

The performance exemplified what Hardy is trying to achieve throughout the roster — selflessness, adaptability, a willingness to sacrifice, and a drive to always do what’s best for the team. And there were a number of examples of those principles Thursday.

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The team was led by Kelly Olynyk, who had 27 points, six assists and four steals on a night when the Jazz were shorthanded and needed someone to step up as a leader. Kris Dunn, who has had inconsistent opportunities this season, finished the game with a 13-point, 10-assist double-double. Ochai Agbaji was more aggressive at the rim, Collin Sexton was more of a playmaker. Everyone had to dig a little deeper to find a way to impact the game.

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Even in those circumstances though, it can be extremely difficult for a player like Samanic to go from not just being cold after days of not playing, but to jump into a game late in the third quarter without being in any sort of a rhythm and find a way to make a difference and make his team and coach proud. But, Samanic did exactly that.

As the Jazz are dealing with injuries and illnesses that seem to mount and change daily, Thursday’s game, and the way in which the Jazz won it, has given Hardy and the Jazz players a blueprint for not only how to stay ready on a night-to-night basis, no matter what is thrown their way, but a way for them to conduct themselves throughout the season.

“That’s what we want our program to be about,” Hardy said. “People that are willing to make themselves a part of the team, stay committed, stay locked in no matter how many minutes they get night-to-night.”

Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy watches from the sideline during game against the Detroit Pistons, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Detroit. Though not appearing happy here, he was happy with the play of Luka Samanic. | Carlos Osorio, Associated Press
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