Jazz confirm: Dante Exum tore his ACL

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It looked like Dante Exum might have torn his ACL.

The Jazz were reportedly concerned Exum tore his ACL.

The early diagnosis was reportedly that Exum tore his ACL.

Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, Exum tore his ACL.

Jazz release:

Exum suffered a left knee injury on Aug. 4 while competing for the Australian National Team in a game against the Slovenian National Team in Ljubljana, Slovenia. After returning to Salt Lake City, he underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at University of Utah Health Care’s Orthopaedic Center this morning. Following the examination, Jazz physicians Dr. Travis Maak and Dr. David Petron determined that Exum sustained a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.

“First and foremost, our overriding concern is with Danté and his long-term health,” said Utah Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey. “We are continuing to work closely with our medical staff, Danté and his representation in order to reach an accurate diagnosis and recommended treatment so that we can provide him with the best possible care. We all know how hard he will work to make a full recovery and look forward to his return to play.”

This injury will probably keep Exum out the entire season. If he returns, it will almost certainly be very late in the year.

This is a big blow for the Jazz, who were on track to challenge for a playoff berth in the loaded Western Conference. Exum became Utah’s starting point guard last season and played a key role in its second-half defensive breakthrough. Trey Burke figures to move back into the starting lineup, and perhaps his defense will be adequate behind Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. Those bigs mean more to the Jazz’s defense than either point guard.

Burke’s bigger challenge is shooting better than he did in his first two NBA seasons. Exum didn’t shoot well either as a rookie, but at least he took a lower-usage role. Burke’s misses have sunk more possessions.

This also opens playing time for second-year Bryce Cotton and/or rookie Raul Neto. Utah went from two point guards with at least some proven NBA success to one and mystery.

Of course, this season is not the only concern. How will this injury affect Exum long-term? He’s just 20, so there’s reasonable hope he can recover without losing athleticism. But his athleticism was such a big reason for optimism with him. Any diminishment could alter his career arc.

This injury won’t necessarily derail Utah or Exum, but it presents challenges nobody wanted to face.