Walker Kessler should be angry when he returns to the Utah Jazz.
The FIBA World Cup really helped elevate most of the Utah Jazz’s FIBA Five. Jordan Clarkson is an icon to the people of the Philippines, while Lauri Markkanen has established himself as the greatest basketball export the Finnish have ever had. Simone Fontecchio has given the Italians hope of a post-Danilo Gallinari future, and of course, Kelly Olynyk was the everything man for the Canadians.
Yet, the Americans barely saw Walker Kessler, a young center for the Utah Jazz who has a Defensive Player of the Year hype around him. He’s a big, mobile body who can protect the paint as well as everyone already, and he’s just 22 years old. Considering the international game has a history of using big-bodied players to win games, everyone thought for sure that Kessler would see big minutes.
Just looking at some of the top teams of the tournament like Lithuania or Serbia, they used big men to great effect. The United States national team couldn’t keep the size up against other major teams and guys like Jaren Jackson Jr. got eaten alive due to it
Kessler, with all the hype in the world, sat on the bench for most of the team’s three losses, all while head coach Steve Kerr bungled the team’s potential.
Now, coming off a wildly disappointing run with the national team, Kessler should be returning to the Utah Jazz angry and with something to prove. Kerr, with his inconsistent usage of Kessler, said to the world he didn’t think Kessler would help him win. He didn’t say those exact words, but actions speak louder than words, and Kerr made sure the world knew that he wasn’t going to play Kessler.
Kessler now returns to the Jazz no longer focusing on the international competition but on getting the Jazz to the playoffs after a year where they just missed. Kessler should be angry that Kerr didn’t use him and that his squad was embarrassed so easily in back-to-back losses to Germany and Canada.
Kessler should come into this season with a chip on his shoulder, and a desire to prove to the world that Kerr’s views on centers are outdated; that guys like him are not just important to a team’s success, but great defensive players should be seen in the same light as a great offensive player.
Kessler is in a unique position to prove to the world that one of the best coaches of all time was wrong and that his style no longer works. And that starts with the first tip-off of the season. Let’s just hope that Kessler has the same desire to come in and prove to everyone that he’s better than Kerr gave him credit for.