The NBA2K team set up shop in the parking lot of the Zions Bank Basketball Campus on Friday morning, ready to capture new facial scans of the Utah Jazz. The 2K trailer is outfitted with more than 140 cameras to photograph the players from nearly every angle, hoping to make their characters as realistic as possible. Jazz point guard Danté Exum was ready for a new look.
“When was the last time we scanned you?” the 2K team asked him.
“It’s been a while,” he said.
“This will be a great upgrade.”
Exum, indeed, is ready for that. From a teenaged lottery pick to a 23-year-old battling back from a series of serious injury, the Aussie point guard has already endured so much during his young NBA career. But Exum feels like he is turning a corner as 2018 comes to a close.
“I’ve just been putting in a lot of work in the practice facility and then just going out there in games and playing as comfortable as possible,” Exum said. “It’s just confidence and knowing my ability now.”
Exum is coming off a season-high 20-point performance on Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, a game in which the point guard showed flashes of the potential that made him the No. 5 overall pick back in 2014. He used his speed to get to the rim, his athleticism and size to finish. It was yet another solid individual performance for Exum, who is averaging better than 10 points and three assists, while shooting 50 percent from 3-point territory during his last five games.
“He looks comfortable out there,” forward Derrick Favors said. “It looks like the game has kind of slowed down for him. He’s making the right read, not really forcing anything, just playing his game. He doesn’t look timid. It looks he’s out there having fund and not worrying about playing time or anything.”
Early on this season, that was not the case. Exum found himself in and out of head coach Quin Snyder’s rotation.
“I think Danté was just in a position where he really just needed to continue to invest and continue to work,” Snyder said. “He’s done that. You can see that he’s playing with more poise and more confidence.”
Exum has dedicated long hours in the Jazz’s practice facility, working closely with assistant coach Jeff Watkinson to improve his shooting touch and harness his blazing speed into a more effective tool.
“He’s been working,” forward Joe Ingles said. “You guys see bits and pieces of it. He’s in there hours after we leave, shooting and working on his finishing. He’s seeing the results of that.”
Exum sees and feels the difference, too, though he knows there is still plenty of work to do to get to where he wants to be as a player.
“I’ve always been invested. I’m always two feet in,” he said. “It’s just about locking in every night. That’s the focus I need to bring every night.”
His teammates and coaches aren’t worried.
“I feel good about what Danté’s been able to do as far as committing to his work and his competitiveness,” Snyder said. “When you do that, you see results. That’s what we’ve seen with Danté. He’s earned it.”