Jazz rookie Kevin Murphy is now a member of the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League. Good thing because rather than sitting behind the Jazz bench in a suit and tie, the 22-year-old needs developing.
So said Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey.
“We want him to play basketball the right way, meaning score when he needs to score, pass when he needs to pass,” Lindsey said. “Really, our evaluation of him is not going to be, ‘You go score 40 points and we’ll bring you back to the Jazz.’”
Lindsey was quick to point out the team is satisfied with Murphy’s progress since taking him with the No. 47 overall pick in the 2012 draft. The team does not have concerns about his character or willingness to play a team-oriented style.
However, even though starting point guard Mo Williams continues to struggle with sprained right foot, the return of Earl Watson to the regular rotation means even less playing time for Murphy, who appeared in only three games.
With a completely healthy roster, the Jazz would only be able to dress 13 players, leaving Murphy to sit out.
Rather than letting him learn through practices and general observation behind the bench, the team opted to send Murphy to the D-League so he can gain playing time and positive experience, Lindsey said.
In that sense, the word “development” means more than just honing basketball skills.
“We wanted him to be very appreciative of being in professional basketball,” Lindsey said. “So if his role’s 40 seconds, he’s to be professional and thankful. If it’s 40 minutes, the same thing. We’re not going to go tell the Reno program that (it) has to play Kevin x-amount of minutes, with this role and this amount of shots. That doesn’t happen here.”
Lindsey said the Jazz want Murphy to earn his playing time in Reno, though they have informed Bighorns coach Paul Mokeski they’d like to see Murphy get some challenging defensive assignments.
“We wanted him to really focus defensively, ask for the better wing assignments,” Lindsey said. “Now, coach Mokeski will ultimately make that call but we wanted Paul to know we want (Murphy’s) focus to be a defensive one.”
Murphy, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard, was an offensive force during his four years at Tennessee Tech. His 2,019 career points rank 2nd all-time in the school’s history.
As a senior he averaged 20.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
The Jazz, who did not have a first-round pick in this year’s draft, selected Murphy based largely on his ability to shoot and score. However, they saw potential on the defensvie end as well.
On the night he was drafted, Murphy told reporters he didn’t want to be pegged as an offensive player, but an all-around player.