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Philadelphia • This is Rocky Balboa's city, but the Utah Jazz are eagerly awaiting another fighter's comeback.
Head coach Quin Snyder wants forward Trevor Booker boxing out not boxing though, when Booker makes his season debut Friday night against the 76ers, after serving a one-game suspension for a preseason fight. Booker is a high-energy player who is supposed to provide some punch off the bench but he's not supposed to throw any.
"We gave him a little bit of a break, but he can walk" the line between playing with emotion and losing control of it, Snyder said. "I believe in him. He can be emotional and tough and be energetic and be who he is and be smart."
Knowing he'd be without a key member of his bench as he prepped for the Detroit Pistons, Snyder had said, "I get angry at him when I see him right now, because I miss him. But no one is more disappointed right now than he is."
Booker spent Wednesday morning with his teammates at their walkthrough at the Palace of Auburn Hills, but he didn't make the return trip that night. Instead, Booker had to watch from the team hotel as the Jazz lost 92-87.
"It was definitely tough watching your teammates battle and you can't go to battle with them," Booker said Thursday after practice. "But I'll be ready for the next game."
Booker averaged 7.2 points and 5 rebounds over 79 games last season, his first in Utah. His hustle, muscle and spark-plug plays off the bench helped ensure the Jazz would keep him around another year despite not having a fully guaranteed contract beyond his first season in Utah.
"He brings a lot of energy," said Gordon Hayward, "a lot of things that don't show up on the score sheet."
After not showing up on the score sheet at all on Wednesday, the Jazz are ready to welcome the veteran forward back.
Booker acknowledged that his slap to the side of Lakers center Roy Hibbert's head during a heated moment in the teams' second preseason game was a mistake.
"It was just that one circumstance where I did something that I shouldn't have done," he said. "But other than that, I think my emotions are pretty much in check."
The 27-year-old Booker the only current Jazzman who knows what it feels like to win an NBA playoff game has had on-court scraps before, including a tussle last preseason with Clippers forward Blake Griffin.
But Booker doesn't consider himself the Jazz's enforcer.
"We got guys that, you know, they don't take anything from anybody anyway," he said. "They know how to step up for themselves."
Now Booker is ready to step up and step back onto the court.
The 6-foot-8 lefty put together a nice week of practice before heading out on the road trip, glad to finally be rid of the protective mask he'd had to wear for the past month.
"It's sitting right over there," he said one day, pointing to the bleachers inside the Jazz's practice facility. "Think we're going to have a burial ceremony for it later."
Just before the start of training camp, Booker broke his nose in a pickup game. He needed surgery. He was fitted for a mask, but it was a nuisance, obstructing his vision every time he shot and every time he tried to do the dirty work the Jazz have come to expect from him.
"We missed his energy, his rebounding," Snyder said Thursday, ticking off the ways Booker might have helped in Detroit. "He manages to do a little of everything to help you win."
On Friday night, he'll actually be back in the arena to do it.
About Trevor Booker
Position • Forward
Age • 27
Height • 6-foot-8
Weight • 228 pounds
Drafted • 23rd overall in 2010 out of Clemson
Acquired • Signed a two-year deal with the Jazz in 2014.
2014-15 • Averages 7.2 points, 5 rebounds
Need to know:
• A veteran presence in the Jazz locker room and a spark plug off the the bench, Booker has turned himself into a key cog in the Jazz organization over the last 12 months
• He is the only player on the Jazz roster to have won a playoff game, which he did with the Washington Wizards
Jazz at 76ers
P At Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
Tipoff • Friday, 5 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM
Records • Jazz 0-1, Sixers 0-1
About the Jazz • Led by one with 23 seconds to play, but came up short in their season opener at Detroit on Wednesday. … Forward Derrick Favors attacked Pistons forward Ersan Ilyasova early en route to a game-high 26 points. … Starting point guard Raul Neto is listed as questionable with a knee contusion.
About the Sixers • Big men Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor are a young, intriguing tandem for a Philly team that has been at the bottom of the league the past few years. … Jazzman Joe Ingles credits Sixers coach Brett Brown for developing his game as the former coach of the Australian national team. Brown has amassed a record of 37-128 over three seasons in Philly.