There is a first time for everything, and on Wednesday night Trey Lyles will experience his latest first – the first time back in a city and an arena against a former team.
He expects to run the full gamut of emotions.
“I’m going to be excited to play, but nervous playing in front of your old home crowd,” Lyles said. “But I’m excited for it. I’m looking forward to playing, just going out there having a good showing as a team and as a player.”
Lyles spent the first two years of his professional career with the Jazz after being drafted by the franchise as a lottery pick in 2015. This summer, on draft night, he was traded to the Nuggets along with Utah’s 24th pick in a deal that sent Denver’s No. 13 pick to the Jazz.
Here’s another first for Lyles: He’s never stepped inside the visitor’s locker room.
“Never have,” said Lyles, laughing. “This will be my first time to see what they are working with.”
It won’t be plush.
But then, Lyles isn’t looking for creature comforts. He’s hoping for a good showing for the Nuggets and himself in the season opener at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. The Northwest Division rivals play the first of four meetings against each other on Wednesday.
There is no one on the Nuggets roster more familiar with what to expect out of the Jazz than Lyles.
“I know what they are going to be defensively,” he said. “They are going to be really good defensively. They’ve got Rudy (Gobert) back there protecting the basket. We were always, when I was with them, functional in how we wanted our defenses ran and our rotations and stuff like that. So, I know they are going to be great on that end of the floor. Offensively, it’s going to be a lot different with Gordon gone, but I’m pretty sure they’ll figure something out. But I think we’ll be ready for it.”
Lyles said the Nuggets scheme changes on defense makes them similar to what Utah accomplishes on that end. Utah, in the last few seasons, has been one of the NBA’s best defensive teams.
“It’s pretty similar,” Lyles said. “It’s aggressive in ball screens and stuff like that, talking and rotation-wise. I just think here we have to focus on it a little bit more. We have a young group of guys and I think over a period of time that everybody will get used to what and where we need to be on the floor on the defensive end.”