Utah Jazz: If Cleared, Dante Exum Should Play in the Olympics


Utah Jazz point guard Dante Exum is expected to be cleared for contact in June after tearing his ACL last summer. The Aussie could potentially represent his country in the Olympic Games in Rio.

Undeniably, the loss of point man Dante Exum altered the course of the 2015-16 season for the Utah Jazz. As important as Rudy Gobert is to the Jazz defense with his ability to protect the rim, Exum’s length, size and defensive instincts had been crucial in screen-roll defense and hindering opposing point guards at the point of attack.

Without him, the team struggled to find an answer at the one spot all season long. And while the defense performed at a high level in most respects, it failed to match the historic-level front that Exum was a key component of during the second half of the 2014-15 campaign.

Thankfully, the squad’s erstwhile point guard of the future appears to be nearing the final stages of his rehabilitation from the torn ACL he suffered last summer. According to Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey in the media session following locker cleanout, the 20-year-old is expected to be cleared for contact in June.

This bodes well for Exum’s potential participation in training camp this fall and his return to the court next season, but what of the summer?

Per the man himself, summer league has been ruled out. However, the possibility that the former No. 5 overall pick could rejoin the Aussie Boomers for the Rio Olympics is still in play.

So, with that being the case, should the team’s prized point guard participate in international play this summer after his last run with the Australian national team ended with a devastating knee injury? It’s a question not easily answered and one that Lindsey visibly wrestled with when asked about it earlier this week.

Lindsey on the risk involved with international hoops competition. From the Deseret News

"“No question there’s a risk. We’ll have to sit down with each player individually and talk about where they’re at. It’s a very complicated question because I’ve been a direct beneficiary of (international players). There’s a balance of competition, and can that competition heighten environments in world championships and the Olympics help our cause. You can make an argument, but there’s also a risk associated with it. It’s not all good or all bad.”"

Immediately after Exum tore his ACL while playing for his native Australia last year, I was one that questioned the involvement of NBA players in international games, declaring that “the entire affair is tantamount to a game of Russian Roulette and Exum’s knee just ate lead.”

Having said that, I find myself more receptive to the idea of Exum suiting up with the Boomers this time around.

While the injury risk is always there, Exum is a player who needs to be on the court. The Jazz have invested a lot in him and you don’t want to see him get injured, but you also don’t want to stagnate his growth by keeping him on a leash. He’s missed a lot of basketball in his early career. If he can, he needs to make up for lost time.

His injury last summer didn’t come from overuse. Rather, it was a freak occurrence; he planted his leg in just the wrong way and his ligament couldn’t cope. It’s the kind of injury that can happen to anyone at any time regardless of any precautions that might have been taken.

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It’s understandable that Lindsey, the Jazz organization and fans in both Utah and Australia would be unnerved by the thought of Exum risking another injury. There’s a lot at stake here for all parties, particularly Exum. I still some of the same reservations about the idea myself.

For his part, the Jazz guard is saying all the right things about his potential Olympic involvement. “I wouldn’t do that unless I’m 100 percent and confident in myself,” he said at locker cleanout, adding that he’d confer with the Jazz before making a decision.

Still, if he’s been medically cleared and has a desire to play, I tend to think he should.

Gobert’s performance for France in the 2014 FIBA World Cup helped propel the Stifle Tower to new heights as a player. If Exum taking the court with the Boomers this summer has the potential to do the same for the team’s point guard of the future, shouldn’t he do so?

I say yes, but what do you think? Let us know in the comments below.