This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
You can't fault Trey Lyles for trying to make the most of an opportunity. Injuries opened the door for the rookie forward's move to the Jazz's starting lineup and with his play Lyles has made it harder and harder to take him off the floor.
That, frankly, has cost his team in one deeply under appreciated department: whenever Lyles is on the court, Utah's best bench celebrator is out of commission.
"We need that from guys like him," point guard Trey Burke said with a laugh. "That brings energy … when you see one of your teammates do something special."
Before Lyles found his footing against NBA competition, the usually reserved power forward learned to loosen up on the sidelines. He'll squat down and flex his biceps, elbows jutted out at a goofy angle, after a big dunk. He'll dance after a 3-point bucket. He'll get down on his hands and knees during a close game.
Lyles grins bashfully when asked about his antics.
"I'm just happy for my teammates, being energized and into the game," said Lyles, whose Twitter and Instagram accounts are always flooded with appreciative comments from fans and teammates after his celebrations appear online. "Nobody gives me grief. Everybody thinks it's pretty funny."
Lyles, a rookie who just turned 20 years old, can be a quiet guy off the court. Burke described the forward as having a "calm demeanor." So his sideline outbursts have caught some teammates off guard.
"I didn't know he had that in him," Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. "But that's kind of his thing now. It's awesome."
Recently, however, Lyles has had to neglect his bench duties. Over his past 10 games, Lyles has averaged nearly 30 minutes a game, which hasn't left him much time for sitting and celebrating.
His work with assistant coach Jeff Watkinson has helped him transform from a 13-percent 3-point shooter last year as a freshman at Kentucky to the Jazz's leader in 3-point shooting and a consistent threat from the corner. And his instincts on the court have earned him praise from head coach Quin Snyder.
"He makes good reads," Snyder said. "As a young player, he's not always going to be capable of making plays in [every] situation, but he knows the right play to make. … You can help a guy work on his shot, but knowing when he's open and should he pass or shoot is a more subtle thing. He's a good basketball player."
He's averaging 10 points and six rebounds a game in January. He's scored 16, 19 and 17 in his last three respectively.
But while the Jazz bench stood and cheered when Lyles shook a defender to the floor and took off for a two-handed slam last week in Houston, they couldn't quite duplicate Lyles' pizazz.
"It's him throwing himself into the game," shooting guard Rodney Hood said of Lyles' style on the sidelines. "It's a fun thing. It's good to see that when you're on the court."
Perhaps Lyles will find himself with more time on the pine once Derrick Favors' back heals enough to let him return to the starting lineup. For now, Snyder likes what he's seen from Lyles on the court.
"I try not to watch the bench," Snyder said with a laugh when asked about the rookie's celebrations. "I fear what I may see."
Why bother anyway? Lately, Lyles is rarely there.
Jazz at Hornets
P Monday, noon MST
TV • ROOT Jazz at Hornets
At Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.
Tipoff - Monday, noon
TV - ROOT
Radio - 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records - Jazz 18-22; Hornets 18-22
Last meeting - A 94-66 Jazz victory in Salt Lake on March 16, 2015
About the Jazz - Center Rudy Gobert had his best game since returning from injury, finishing with 18 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks in a blowout win over the Lakers on Saturday. … Forward Derrick Favors has missed 13 straight games with a back injury. … Currently sitting in 8th place in the West.
About the Hornets - Forward Nicolas Batum is having a breakout year, averaging 15.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game. … Former Jazz center Al Jefferson has been out since undergoing knee surgery in late December. … Have lost nine of their last 10 games.