It wasn’t a great night for Jazz center Kyrylo Fesenko, that’s for sure.
With a new one-year $1.1 million deal in hand, the youthful Ukrainian is expected to contribute more than ever this season. He even came to camp 20-25 pounds lighter than he was a year ago. What’s more, he told reporters during training that that he planned to be more focused on basketball and less concerned with drawing attention to himself like an overgrown class clown. But none of that seemed to be on display Thursday night as the Jazz downed the Portland Trail Blazers in a preseason game at EnergySolutions Arena.
Fesenko saw more playing time that he normally would have because newcomer Francisco Elson missed the game with a strained hamstring.
Once Fesenko got in the game he played with his typical enthusiasm, but was not always in control.
He was on the floor in the second quarter when a group of Jazz reserves let an 18-point lead slip away.
At one point during the quarter the 7-footer got the ball in the high post, made a brilliant spin move the other direction and was faced with a wide-open path to the basket. Unfortunately, he ran out of steam by the time he got to the rim and wound up getting blocked by an inanimate object.
Later, he blocked the shot of Portland’s Armon Johnson and, unable to control himself, did a Dikembe Mutombo-type finger wag afterward.
Watching Fes trying to impersonate the great Mutumbo certainly was entertaining. But Sloan was less than amused.
“He was trying (to play hard). I don’t have a problem with him trying,” Sloan said. “He blocked a shot and got real cute and pointed at the player. From that point, he kind of took himself out of the game.
“Those things, you’ve got to learn to keep focused on playing. You don’t need to (taunt). Everybody in the building knew he blocked the shot. Those things, you’ve got to play through and not add fuel to the fire of the other team.”
Fesenko was also on the floor during the fourth quarter as the Blazers again battled back from a double-digit deficit.
Down the stretch Fesenko missed a jumpshot and a pair of free throws.
He finished the game with five points on 2-for-6 shooting. He also went 1-for-5 from the free throw line with four rebounds and two assists, all in 22 minutes of work.
After the game he walked toward his locker, noticed a group of reporters nearby and asked, “Is there an emergency exit in here?”