"Helped Change The Tempo" | Toscano-Anderson And Jones Thrive In Jazz Debuts

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

After being traded to Utah late last week, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones needed to figure out what to make of being with their new team. 

To most, the trade signaled that this Jazz team was primarily doing so to get a glimpse at some of the younger players on the roster — see if they are going to be fits for the future. To JTA and Jones, they didn't know what their roles would be moving forward or how/if they'd be able to help.

Turns out, it didn't take long for them to not just make their debuts but also give the shorthanded Jazz a much-needed boost. Although the Jazz fell to Memphis on Wednesday night, the overall play of JTA and Jones is reason enough for optimism heading into the All-Star break. 

"I thought that their competitiveness, their athleticism, their physicality really stood out tonight," head coach Will Hardy said. "I thought they helped change the tempo of the game."

With Lauri Markkanen and Rudy Gay missing the game, JTA checked into the game late in the first quarter and made his presence felt throughout. He finished with seven points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes, the most he's played since November 2021. 

Not only did he drill a corner three to end the first quarter, but JTA also showed off various moves that could benefit the Jazz. He crashed the glass with extreme effectiveness, showed that he's a capable ball handler able of facilitating, and looked very comfortable in Utah's read-and-react offense. 

JTA looked so comfortable on the offensive end of the court because he grew up in a similar offense while with Golden State. He knew when to cut, when to set screens, and when to keep the ball moving. It's rare, but seeing a new player come in and instantly make the offense flow better was what JTA provided. 

While his offense was sensational, JTA was excellent on defense as well. He's a tough-nosed defender, understands spacing and help defense, and looked very comfortable when switching onto multiple players. 

"It's not just the physical things that he does," Hardy said of Toscano-Anderson. "He's an unbelievable communicator, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, he knows how to play making quick decisions … I thought he was great."

Jones may not have played as many minutes as JTA, but he was just as effective. 

With Udoka Azubuike getting the backup minutes in the first half and struggling against the athleticism of Memphis' frontcourt, Hardy elected for a chance in the final 24 minutes. He gave Jones a try at those backup minutes — and the 7th-year center didn't disappoint. 

Using an incredible blend of strength and athleticism, Jones finished with seven points, two rebounds, and two blocks — but most importantly, he was a +10 in eight minutes of action. 

Another product of Golden State, Jones looked very comfortable setting screens and navigating dribble-hand-off scenarios. He's a very fluid athlete who moves his feet well, allowing him to do a solid job when switched out on the perimeter. 

"Damian came in and really gave us a burst athletically," Hardy said. "Defensively, he showed some ability to stay in front of the ball and alter shots at the rim. Clearly a great athlete. … We needed a change of pace in tonight's game, we needed to see if we could find a spark, and I thought both of those guys delivered."

With JTA set to be an unrestricted free agent and Jones having a player option — and with them being over 27 years of age — their long-term fit with the Jazz may be in question. Regardless, Jazz Nation should enjoy what both of them bring and how well they fit into the culture Hardy is creating.