DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 5: Raul Neto #25 of the Utah Jazz handles the ball during the game against the Detroit Pistons on January 5, 2019 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

With injuries to Rubio and Exum, Utah Jazz point guard Raul Neto is ready for a bigger role

by Aaron Falk

Just when the Utah Jazz’s schedule started to ease up, adversity struck. Backup point guard Danté Exum stepped on a teammate’s foot and sprained his ankle. One game later, starting point guard Ricky Rubio suffered a hamstring injury.

Raul Neto is determined not to let that hurt his team.

The third point guard on the Jazz roster has suddenly been thrust into a major role—and the 26-year-old Brazilian says he is up for the challenge.

“I’ve always been ready,” he said. “I’ve always been thinking I’ll play the next game.”

Neto has been patiently waiting for his opportunity. He has appeared in 18 games this season, averaging 10.9 minutes per game. Still, this is not how he wanted his minutes to come.

“When you’re not playing, you want to play,” he said at shootaround on Wednesday morning. “I’ve got an opportunity. Of course, it’s not the way I want it. I don’t want my teammates to get injured for me to get minutes. But it is what it is. I have to be ready.”

Rubio’s hamstring will be evaluated in one week. Exum’s status is to be determined. And until they return, Neto knows he must pick up the slack.

“He knows how to play,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “His teammates believe in him. We believe in him.”

Snyder has seen Neto find ways to make an impact, even in limited minutes, almost every time he’s been called into action.

“He’s done it so many times and different ways,” Snyder said. “I’m very proud of the improvement that Raul has made since he’s been with us. Raul is someone that you feel grateful as a coach and as a teammate that you’ve got him on your side.”

Neto started 53 games in 2015-16, his rookie season in the NBA, and he has kept a starter’s mentality even after moving down the depth chart.

“I’ve been doing that for a long time,” he said. “I think it’s just a mindset of always working.”

This season Neto is averaging 4.7 points, 1.9 assists and 1.4 rebounds per game in limited minutes.

“I think it’s all about being patient,” he said. “You wait for maybe some injuries, or guys are not playing as good as they need to play. A lot of things can happen. I think I’ve just learned to be patient and be professional.”

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