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"We Will Be Tough" | Hardy Makes Debut As Utah Opens Preseason Against Toronto

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

After an offseason full of change, the time has come to see what the new-look Jazz can do. 

Utah kicks off the 2022 preseason when it travels to Edmonton, Canada, to face reigning rookie of the year Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. MST and will be on AT&T SportsNet and NBATV.

So many questions remain unanswered as the Jazz prepare for their four preseason games — all before kicking off the regular season on Oct. 19 against Denver. 

What will Utah's offense and defense look like with new head coach Will Hardy at the helm? With only three returners from last season's team, who breaks into the starting five? What will the rotation look like?

These are just a few questions that should gain clarity on Sunday afternoon — all while ushering in a new era of Jazz basketball that Hardy promises will reflect the fanbase and their desire to win. 

"This team is going to be representative of this organization, and it's going to be something that's reflected with the fan base," Hardy said earlier in the week. "I want a team that competes. … I want a team that cares about winning. I understand that there are individual aspects to playing at this level, but I want people that are solely focused on winning basketball games for the Utah Jazz."

Led by returners Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, and newcomers Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, and Malik Beasley, the Jazz look on paper as if putting the ball in the hoop shouldn't be much of an issue. 

"When I look at the roster, I think we're a skilled offensive team," Hardy said. "I think we have a lot of guys who can dribble, pass and shoot. … We have a lot of guys who can play in a lot of different spots on the floor."

While the offense shouldn't be a problem, most questions appear to be on the defensive end. 

Jarred Vanderbilt and Kelly Olynyk will be the stalwarts, but who can emerge as defensive stoppers on the wing? Will rookie Ochai Agbaji find his calling, or will someone like Beasley take the next step forward on that end of the court?

Despite having a few established players on the roster, many eyes will be on some of the newer and younger guys and the roles they can carve out with the team.

Simone Fontecchio, one of Europe's best forwards, is coming off a stellar showing at EuroBasket, where he led Italy in scoring.

Walker Kessler is a talented rookie, while Leandro Bolmaro is a former first-round pick with potential. Talen Horton-Tucker was a significant role player for the Lakers the last two seasons, while Jared Butler is entering his second season after showing legitimate promise last year. 

And then there's Nickeil Alexander-Walker, someone who has drawn raves throughout training camp after having a few really good seasons with New Orleans. 

Regardless of how Utah attacks the preseason opener and who emerges as vital rotation players, Jazz basketball is officially back.

“We will be tough, we will play with passion, we will be a team,” Hardy said.