Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey and head coach Quin Snyder know last year’s squad was special.
After a rough start to the season, the Jazz got hot in the second half of the year.
“The team grabbed the heart and imagination of the city,” Lindsey said.
But, as the team kicked off the 2018-19 season with Media Day on Monday, everyone is ready to look forward.
“I don’t want to pick up where we left off,” Snyder said. “This is a new journey. We can take with us the experience. We can take with us the chemistry, the things that we’ve learned. But this is a new team. We can’t take February with us. We can’t take the playoffs with us. This is a new year.”
As part of the “Road to Tipoff,” presented by KUTV2 News, here are a few highlights and notes from Media Day:
• In talking with stats guru Ken Pomeroy, Lindsey has been told that defensive efficiency isn’t as reliable year to year as some other statistical categories.
“There’s no question he’s factually right,” Lindsey said.
But that analysis doesn’t factor in Rudy Gobert—and the Jazz think they can be an elite defense (not a good defense, but an elite defense) with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year anchoring them in the paint.
• With LeBron James heading to the Lakers and DeMarcus Cousins bolstering the Warriors, everyone expects the Western Conference to be tough. That’s not going to shape how the Jazz approach the season.
“The West was good last year. The West has been good for about two decades now,” Snyder said. “This year, even more, we’re seeing a jump at least expectation-wise. I don’t want us to look at other teams. I don’t want us comparing ourselves to anybody else. I just want us to be as good as we can be and focus on that.”
• New Jazz assistant coach Fotis Katsikaris came highly recommended by one of Snyder’s close friends and mentors, Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina. Snyder was impressed not only with Katsikaris’ varied experience—as a head coach in Spain and as the head coach of the Greek national team—but with his humility and eagerness to make the move to the NBA.
• Derrick Favors has heard a few of these questions before and he came ready with the answers.
• Favors, center Tony Bradley and forward Jae Crowder are all coming into camp well under their weight from a season ago. Crowder said he has lost about 14 pounds from last year.
“I wanted to move better,” Crowder said. “Come Game 3 against Houston, I was beat. I was tired. In the playoffs, you need to be on another level and I wasn’t able to get to that level.”
• Alec Burks isn’t worrying about playing in a contract year.
“I don’t believe in pressure,” he said.
• Ricky Rubio has been in Utah for a couple of weeks, participating in the team’s OTAs. That’s a departure from past summers, when he’s been tied up with national team responsibilities late into the offseason.
“It’s been different,” he said. “In the past we’ve been playing Australia and beating them for a medal.”
It should be noted that this example was not an accident. Rubio was sitting right next to Aussie Joe Ingles.
• Ekpe Udoh has reportedly added a hook shot to his game, a move he used to score over Rudy Gobert in a recent pickup game. The center is also adding something else this season: Ekpe’s popular book club will be expanded to include a series of live discussions with some of Udoh’s favorite authors.
• Speaking of Gobert, the center has been fine-tuning all sorts of things during the offseason—everything from his footwork in the post to his finishing and even his jump shot.
“I feel like this year is going to be my best so far,” he said.
• Donovan Mitchell has re-watched film from more than 70 games last season, looking at his mistakes and how teams defended him differently over the course of the year. After a spectacular—and frankly surprising—rookie campaign, Mitchell knows he’s not going to sneak up on anybody now.
“That’s going to be the biggest difference,” he said. “Being able to understand there’s a difference in how people are playing me, how they’re going to guard me, being able to prepare for that.”
• Mitchell has been a regular at local college football games in recent weeks. On Monday, Gobert tried to pin down his loyalty.
“Who is your favorite Utah football team?” Gobert asked him.
“I like Louisville,” Mitchell replied.
• Who has impressed in OTAs?
Mitchell was also quick with that response: Grayson Allen.
“He has that poise,” Mitchell said. “I was really impressed watching him. He just has that way where he’s not fazed by a lot. I think that’s going to pay dividends down the line, when we get to the playoffs.”
• Point guard Raul Neto tweaked his hamstring during a recent pickup game in open gym.
“I just felt a popping,” he said.
Neto is scheduled to be re-evaluated in two weeks.
• Forward Georges Niang is no longer sharing an apartment with his best friend, old college roommate, and current teammate Naz Mitrou-Long.
“You’ve kind of got to grow up,” Niang said. “Me and Naz were roommates for four years at Iowa State. But when you have to break up the brotherly love, the bachelor pad, it’s a sad day. But we’re still real close to each other; I’m right down the street. I shed a tear pulling out my last box from the apartment.”