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The Utah Jazz's first game of the preseason this fall was a special moment for Trey Lyles, who was awed by the chance to share the court with a basketball legend and his favorite player growing up.
Facing Kobe Bryant, the Jazz rookie said, was his "wow moment."
That might make Chris Bosh his "ow moment."
Lyles, filling in for an injured Rudy Gobert and making the first start of his NBA career, found himself matched up against Bosh last month in Miami. All the Heat All-Star did was score a game-high 25 points in a win over the Jazz.
A month later, Lyles finds himself back in the starting lineup possibly for an extended stretch as Gobert works himself back from a knee injury and the Jazz believe the lumps Lyles took in that November start have helped him begin to find his way in the daunting NBA landscape.
"I think the experience he had early on was a little bit of a wake-up call," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
Lyles, who just turned 20 in November, is a smart player with a versatile, though still developing skill set. But matching up against Bosh and making a start the next game in a blowout loss at Orlando, Lyles didn't look ready for the challenge.
"It's pretty easy for me to understand concepts and everything. I picked up on that pretty quick," he said. "Just the speed and the strength of [the NBA] has been a challenge."
But it's a challenge to which he's begun to respond.
"I think the level of the physicality and the competitiveness and the urgency knocked him back," Snyder said. "To his credit, with this opportunity with Rudy down, he's gotten some more minutes and I think he's been better."
Don't get that twisted. Lyles isn't playing like an All-Star or even a Rookie of the Year candidate. He's playing 20 minutes a game as a starter and averaging 4.2 points and 4.7 rebounds. These are baby steps in his development, and the Jazz still expect plenty of downs to go with his ups.
But, as with that game against Bosh, they hope he'll be better for it.
Jazz big man Derrick Favors, who slid over to the center position with Lyles now starting at power forward, has liked what he's seen from his temporary partner in the starting frontcourt.
"I think he's doing good," Favors said. "He's learning his role and what he has to do."
"I was in a similar spot, playing behind two guys that were really good," Favors added. "Somebody gets hurt and you get an opportunity to start and get some playing time, you've got to keep working."
And the Jazz have been encouraged by some of Lyles' small victories.
In a game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Snyder drew up a play in a short-clock situation and told Lyles to take the shot. It surprised the rookie a bit, but Lyles kept his cool and made the bucket.
"It just shows he has confidence in me and wants me to do well," Lyles said.
In last week's loss at Sacramento, the Kings exploited Lyles on the defensive end of the floor. But he bounced back with a season-best 10-rebound performance the next night against the New York Knicks while helping limit All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony to just 12 points.
So while his move to the starting lineup was prompted by injury, the reason he's staying there is a tip of the cap to how the rookie has responded to the challenge so far.
"If he wasn't playing well, we'd figure out who else to play," Snyder said.