February 25, 2024

Former Cavaliers Kyle Korver and Jae Crowder Return to Cleveland with the Utah Jazz


The Cleveland Cavaliers will host the Utah Jazz at Quicken Loans Arena tonight at 7:30. and several pieces of intrigue will be involved. Utah comes into the game with a record of 18-20, sitting at 12th place in the West standings after advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals a year ago.

The Jazz are in the midst of a chunk of schedule completely devoted to facing teams from the East. Utah lost to Philadelphia at home on December 27 but beat the Knicks in the same arena two nights later. Then, the team hopped on an international flight east, landing in Toronto, where the Raptors beat them 122-116 on January 1. Now, the Jazz will be making stops in Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee on their way back home to Vivint Smart Home Arena, where they’ll play the Orlando Magic on January 9.

The Jazz are led by fifth-year head coach, Quin Snyder, whose young club, comprised of 10 players with three-or-fewer years of NBA experience (eight if you exclude Naz Mitrou-Long and Tyler Cavanaugh, who are both on two-way contracts with Utah and its G League affiliate Salt Lake City Stars), will be missing rookie and Duke product Grayson Allen tonight, who is out with a right ankle sprain. Starting point guard Ricky Rubio, the 6’4” Spaniard, is dealing with a foot injury and is listed as questionable ahead of the game against the Cavaliers. If he does not play, attempting to pick up the slack for Rubio will be Donovan Mitchell, the second-year shooting guard averaging 20.1 points per game this season following a 2017-18 campaign that saw the rookie earn NBA All-Rookie honors. Dante Exum, the fifth-overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, will also receive more minutes in the event Rubio sits this one out. The Jazz have named Exum its Player of the Week, after averaging 14 points, 5.5 assists and two rebounds per game while shooting 52% from the field over his last four games.

However, two players to whom Cleveland will also be giving a great deal of attention are a pair of veterans and former Cavaliers. Jae Crowder, whom Cleveland traded to Utah at the deadline last February, has played in the 37 games for the Jazz this season and attempted 6.1 three-pointers per game, only topped on Utah by Donovan Mitchell’s 6.8. Kyle Korver, who was also shipped to the Jazz by the Cavaliers in a separate deal in late November, has played in 16 games for the Cavs and 16 games for the Jazz this year. Korver, at the tail end of his career, has yet to start a game this season, averaging 8.9 ppg in 18.4 minutes for the Jazz since being acquired.

Kyle Korver has much more of a history with the Cavaliers than Crowder, who was only in Cleveland for a period of a few months after being packaged in the Isaiah Thomas deal with Boston. Korver was a part of the last two Cavs NBA Finals runs, in 2017 and 2018, at the end of which Cleveland fell short in both instances. Then-GM David Griffin had traded with Atlanta to put Korver in a wine-and-gold uniform, seeking to give LeBron James additional perimeter shooting support. The Cavaliers had gotten Korver for the playoffs, but in the playoffs, his ppg of 5.8 in 2017 and 8.3 in 2018 were both down from the regular season. Due to injuries and the general makeup of the roster, Korver started 11 of his 22 games played in the 2018 playoffs. By the time the Cavs reached the Finals though, he was being utilized less, not starting a single game and only playing a total of 65 minutes in the Warriors’ series sweep. At 37, Korver contemplated retirement this offseason, but elected to come back. Rumors about a Korver trade swirled from the beginning of training camp and six games into the regular season, after Head Coach Tyronn Lue was fired, it was clear the Cavaliers would listen to offers for the aging former All-Star. Ultimately, he would be traded the week after Thanksgiving.

It’s going to be very interesting to see this Utah Jazz team play at the Q tonight. The game might not have a ton of playoff implications, but whether it be witnessing rising star Donovan Mitchell play in Cleveland for the only time this season or watching two former Cavaliers in their return to their old stomping grounds, this game will be fun. 

Here’s hoping the Fourth Korver ends in a wine-and-gold winner.

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