The Boys are Back in Town: Notes from Jazz Media Day

September 28th, 2015 | by Ben Dowsett
Photo: Ben Dowsett

Photo: Ben Dowsett

In an environment typically associated with phrases like “new beginnings” and “fresh starts,” Utah Jazz Media Day had a bit of a different central theme: Continuity.

The mantra was evident from the start, with team president Randy Rigby leading things off and going out of his way to praise the team effort — both the actual on-court team as well as management — for playing a big role in helping the Jazz continue their overall vision. Rigby talked big-picture, and even as things became more specific as the microphone moved down the line to Dennis Lindsey and eventually coach Quin Snyder, the overarching theme remained. For all the excitement and buzz surrounding this team, the start of one of the most anticipated seasons in years is just another step on a long, carefully-crafted road.

Things began with a nod to the franchise’s general success. Rigby mentioned the team’s positives on the business side of things, noting strong season ticket renewal alongside encouraging figures for new season ticket purchases. Snyder talked about continuity through the lens of his own staff, and how his own comfort level with his coaching team was huge for him moving forward. Lindsey was quick to praise the Miller family for their ability to foster all the positives within the franchise, noting specific examples of the way their willingness to adapt over the years has helped the Jazz reach their current position.

“We’re all sitting here today because of the Millers,” Lindsey said. “The late Mr. Miller — the foundation was set by him first, and then Gail and the rest of the family. It can be as tangible as the process of hiring Quin, or Steve and Greg Miler OK’ing the significant sums to purchase Rudy Gobert during the [2013] draft, things that tangible. And it can be things as intangible as their experience and moral support.”

Things quickly moved to the basketball front, where there were some gems to be found littered among what was, understandably, mostly team-speak to some degree or another. True to form, Lindsey and Snyder were both most willing to praise things like effort and diligence over specific skills or players. Lindsey spoke about how, on more than one occasion, rival executives told him they were taken aback at just how hard the Jazz played last season. Snyder praised his entire group for their commitment to summer improvement, with the first of what will surely be many metaphors this season likening this time period to getting back on a bicycle — you never forget how to ride it, but you need to put the chain back on, check the tires, and generally make sure the rust is off before you’re back to full speed.

The well of truly meaningful comments dried up a bit when the players hit the stand, though there remained nuggets of intrigue. Utah’s “big three”1 of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert were first up, and spent much of their time discussing the team’s organic growth. They noted to a man how big a role chemistry began to play in the team’s late-season success last year. Favors and Gobert talked specifically about how they’ve worked this summer to tailor their respective games to the other’s strengths and weaknesses. Hayward fielded numerous questions about leadership, saying of himself and Favors, now six-year Jazzmen, “We’re both the best leaders we’ve ever been.”

There were several interesting specifics throughout the remainder of the media session, which we’ll go through rapid-fire style:

  • Alec Burks gave us a few new-ish details on his injury timetable. He confirmed that the exact injury was a torn labrum, and that he was only cleared for full physical participation about two weeks ago. Burks also revealed that, while he had been dealing with various degrees of discomfort in his shoulder all the way since his college days, a specific injury during last year’s preseason significantly aggravated things, to the point where he couldn’t lift his arm above his shoulder. He still played 27 regular season games, both a sign of Alec’s commitment level and a caution against judging much of anything from his performance last season.
  • Trevor Booker was ready when I asked if he was aware his three-point shooting percentage was better than Draymond Green’s last season — apparently I wasn’t even the first person to make that player comparison Monday2. Booker told me he feels very comfortable with his shot, and indeed plans to shoot it more often as a way of stretching the floor for the Jazz.
  • Trey Burke was the most intriguing player to take the stand, to this eye. He said he’s slimmed down significantly to 178 or 180 pounds, by his estimation, down from closer to 190 most of last season — it’s visible. He thinks he can move a lot more fluidly partly as a result, and that he won’t sacrifice any strength. He notes he’s worked both on specific skills (finishing around the rim, floaters in the lane) and on his overall approach, talking specifically about how his preparation for games is something he’s planning to improve. More on Trey momentarily.
  • The Jazz had an offseason cameo a few weeks ago: Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K, who goes back decades with Snyder from Quin’s time as both a player and assistant coach with the Blue Devils, was “in our building during open training,” according to Lindsey. “He had something really good to say that Quin and I hung onto: ‘Standards are better than rules.’” Another nod to process and the team’s broad philosophy here, this time from one of coaching’s all-time greats.
  • Joe Ingles has played in a number of environments, and says his time with the Jazz organization is the most comfortable he’s been while noting the professionalism and camaraderie of this team in particular. This was a sentiment echoed by multiple players. Ingles was his typical hilarious self, enjoying a fun interplay with stage-mate Tibor Pleiss — the two already have a rapport from time overseas.
  • Speaking of Pleiss, the big German is just as confident in his shooting ability as the Jazz appear to be. He responded to my question about his lack of experience as a shooter in Europe by noting that he’s always had touch he’s confident in, but was never given the chance to shoot since his coaches have always preferred him under the basket. He’s eager to prove himself here.
  • True to form and expectations, Snyder would not directly tip his hand when asked about his plans at the point guard position. He noted that each of his three current options has specific strengths, and each has plenty of room to grow. It’s reading between the lines a bit, but he did seem to give a bit of special weight to Trey Burke’s big edge in experience at the NBA level.
  • Lindsey offered another small nugget regarding Burke: Trey was the “most improved” player to attend P3 for the Jazz this summer, according to the facility’s Jazz liaison, becoming both a better athlete and a “safer” one, to borrow Dennis’s term. It remains early and neither member of the brass would give direct clues, but it would be surprising to me at this point if anyone but Trey began the season as the starting point guard.
  • Bryce Cotton is extremely humble, in all the best ways. When I asked if there was a part of his game he felt folks like us didn’t appreciate enough, his response was direct: “I don’t know if I’ve necessarily earned that right yet. I just got my foot into the door, so I’m fine with not being talked about right now because I still have a lot to prove.” What a stud.
  • Rodney Hood wants to improve as a passer, an area I noted as a possible crux point for him while discussing ceilings and floors recently. Rodney noted how many of the league’s best players (he mentioned LeBron James and James Harden in particular) were more of a threat because of their ability to pass the ball rather than just score, and said he wants to emulate them to a large degree.
Ben Dowsett

Ben Dowsett

Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and current in-depth analyst based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Basketball Insiders and BBallBreakdown, and can be heard on SCH Radio on ESPN 700 weekly. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett

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3 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the write-up! I missed most of the radio coverage for class, and was hoping someone would put up some highlights.

  2. Joe says:

    Great information, I plan on following up with all the podcasts from Locke and The zone throughout the day but thanks for the recap.

  3. IDJazzman says:

    Good update with Trey. I’m rooting for the kid and hope his improvement from the P3 might be just what the doctor ordered for him to succeed? If he can get to the rim, just by being a step quicker would be a huge improvement for him.

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