Raul Neto fights through injuries to remain ready

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Raul Neto was riddled with injuries all throughout the 2017-18 season, but he still stepped up and contributed for the Utah Jazz when his name was called.

Given that today (Saturday) is the birthday of Utah Jazz backup point guard Raul Neto, it felt like as good an opportunity as any to review his contributions to the team in 2017-18.

The high-energy, scrappy point guard turns 26 today. Best wishes, Raul!

Unfortunately for Neto, 2017-18 was an interesting one. The Brazilian point guard has built a reputation of always being ready to play when called upon, but due to injuries this season, he had far less chances to prove that readiness than he has in years past.

Neto appeared in 41 regular season games this year, exactly half the season. That’s actually one more game than he played in last year, but this time around he was held out more for injury reasons whereas last year he missed games mostly due to DNP-CD’s as he often found himself behind George Hill, Shelvin Mack and at times Dante Exum.

And when I say Raul had injury woes, I mean he REALLY had injury woes. It seemed like every part of his body was ailing at one point or another. He began preseason dealing with a left quad injury that would ultimately hold him out of the season opener. He eventually made his season debut against the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 21.

About a month later, Neto was experiencing some discomfort in his ribs, but fortunately it didn’t hold him out of action. Almost immediately after, though, he suffered a hamstring injury which kept him sidelined for a few of games heading into early December. One game after returning from that injury, he hurt his foot, which once again sidelined him for a game.

Up to that point, none of the injuries were all that serious and the tough point guard was able to bounce back pretty quickly. However, in a game on December 9 against the Milwaukee Bucks, Raul Neto went for a loose ball and took a shot to the head resulting in a concussion. He was taken back to the locker room immediately and it was clear that he would miss some time.

But the number of games missed started adding up quite quickly and it seemed that Neto had been sidelined for far too long for just a concussion, leading to significant confusion among Jazz fans. However, after seven straight DNPs, it was later announced that Neto had also suffered a left knee bone bruise on the same play that he got the concussion, which certainly further complicated things.

Between the concussion and the knee, when all was said and done, Neto sat out from December 9 when the injury occurred all the way until returning on January 15.

Unfortunately, if you thought the injury plague ended there, you were wrong. After playing pretty consistently throughout the end of January and beginning of February, Neto suffered an ankle injury during shootaround of the first game following the All-Star break. This would keep him out until the beginning of March.

Then, last of all, Neto fractured his wrist against the New Orleans Pelicans in a game on March 11, which would keep him out of action until the final two games of the regular season. Talk about a bumpy ride for Raul Neto. Let’s quickly review everything he injured, shall we? – Quad, ribs, hamstring, head (concussion), knee, ankle and wrist.

I feel like we just got done playing the world’s most painful game of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

It goes without saying that with all the injuries, it was hard for Neto to get into much of a rhythm this season. Even so, when he was healthy and asked to contribute, he lived up to his reputation and was always ready to produce. This was evidenced by his uptick in minutes from the previous year which led to a jump in points per game from 2.5 to 4.5, a jump in assists per game from 0.9 to 1.8 and career-high shooting marks of 45.7 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from deep.

One of the brightest points of Neto’s 2017-18 campaign was a November 17 outing against the Brooklyn Nets in which he put up a career-high 22 points on 9-of-14 (64.3 percent) shooting from the field and 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, the game would end in a loss.

Neto also put in some critical minutes during this season’s playoff run. He didn’t play much in the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but when Ricky Rubio went down with a hamstring injury for the second round, Neto was once again called upon to step up.

In Game 4, he put up nine points, but shot just 3-of-10 from the field. His best stat line came in Game 3 where he posted eight points on 50 percent shooting while adding three rebounds, four assists, two steals and logging a plus/minus of plus-13. He wasn’t necessarily a defensive ace, but his relentless hustle and determination helped hold Houston’s guards in check on a handful of occasions.

On Friday, I reviewed the season of Dante Exum and mentioned that the Jazz could have some tough decisions regarding his future. The same holds true for Raul Neto, except Neto ultimately controls his own fate. As an unrestricted free agent (Dante is restricted), Neto is free to join whatever team he would like.

I’m sure the Jazz would be pleased to have Neto back since he has so seamlessly accepted his role, played hard at every opportunity, and been effective in the right situations. However, if he gets a lucrative offer elsewhere, he may be convinced to join a different squad and the Jazz would probably be open to finding a new backup point guard to join their ranks.

I personally would be A-OK with seeing Neto return next year, but wouldn’t be devastated if he ultimately opted to seek out a better situation for him where, assuming he stayed healthy, he could have more opportunity. He is extremely close friends with Rudy Gobert, though, so hopefully if a change is made with Neto, Gobert will understand and approve without throwing a wrench in any relationships between players or management.

It was a discouraging year for Neto with all the injures but, as he’s done throughout his time as a Jazzman, he maximized his opportunities. I look forward to continuing to watch him do that next year, be it with the Jazz or with an opposing squad.



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