Keyonte George suffers ankle injury during Utah Jazz game at Las Vegas Summer League

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Utah Jazz guard Keyonte George brings the ball up during the second half of the team’s NBA summer league basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, July 6, 2023, in Salt Lake City.
Utah Jazz guard Keyonte George brings the ball up during the second half of the team’s NBA summer league basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, July 6, 2023, in Salt Lake City. | Rick Bowmer, AP

LAS VEGAS — The biggest fear for NBA teams during Summer League is the potential of a rookie suffering an injury. That fear was realized for the Utah Jazz on Wednesday when Keyonte George rolled his ankle just before halftime of the Jazz’s bout against the Denver Nuggets.

Now the Jazz wait with bated breath to know the severity of the injury, which is believed to be an ankle sprain. Adding to the problem is the fact that George sprained the same ankle in February while at Baylor.

A large Jazz contingent sitting courtside, including general manager Justin Zanik, head coach Will Hardy and a number of members of the front office and coaching staff, was mostly jovial and all smiles early in the evening. But their mood visibly shifted in the second half.

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“That absolutely sucks,” Jazz Summer League head coach Evan Bradds said. “It’s a gut punch for us, but the absolute biggest gut punch for him, especially with how well he was playing. It’s terrible, it sucks. Whenever you see somebody go down it sucks no matter where you’re at, what you’re doing.”

The Jazz medical staff was evaluating George after the game and will continue to do so in the coming days.

George suffered the injury on a drive to the basket with less than a minute left in the first half when he stepped on Julian Strawther’s foot. George immediately went to the floor, grabbing the ankle. He tried to get up and walk off the court on his own but needed the assistance of teammates and trainers.

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But, when the halftime buzzer sounded, George gingerly was able to walk on his own to the locker room with his teammates.

The Jazz have been particularly cautious with their rookies, holding No. 9 pick Taylor Hendricks (right hamstring) and No. 28 pick Brice Sensabaugh (left knee surgery recovery) out of Summer League play.

Sensabaugh and Hendricks have both been increasing their workload, participating in on-court work with the team while in Las Vegas, but neither has gone through a full practice and the Jazz don’t want to rush anything and would prefer not to push the players into a game without a full practice under their belts.

George’s injury comes after back-to-back impressive outings in Las Vegas, combining for 59 points in the Jazz’s first two games at the NBA’s annual summer showcase. After making his way to the bench on Wednesday following the injury, George stared at the floor, shaking his head in disappointment.

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This Summer League has seen a number of injuries to high, first-round picks. No. 3 overall pick Scoot Henderson injured his shoulder in the Portland Trail Blazers first game in Las Vegas and No. 4 overall pick Amen Thompson suffered an ankle injury in the Houston Rockets debut.

George, the 16th pick in the June 22 NBA draft, has shown that he figures to be a significant part of the Jazz’s future and would likely be competing for a starting point guard role with the Jazz when the 2023-24 season starts.

Despite concerns about his ability to effectively pass the ball and shoot with consistency, he’s shown during his play in both the Salt Lake City Summer League and Las Vegas Summer League that he has the raw talent and tools the Jazz are looking for.

The Jazz ruled out George for the rest of Wednesday’s game and league sources indicated that George would not play in any of the Jazz’s remaining Summer League games.

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