Yesterday Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the Utah Jazz, yes our vindictive, stubborn, unwilling to admit fault, Utah Jazz were going to attend the Las Vegas Summer League this July. I only found out about it because I happen to follow the best beat writer in the game on twitter, Jody Genessy of the Deseret News. You can read Steve's article at the LV R-J here, or Jody's tweets here. I'm not going to recap all of the already available information, but I will piece together some of the facts in a hopefully new, and compelling way. It's about damn time that the Jazz are going to Vegas. It shows growth, and smarts; and most of all for Jazz fans, a decisive decision to chase away some of the ghosts of the past in order to make a better, baggage free future for our franchise.
If you don't know the story then you'll hear it here first. For the longest time the Utah Jazz were the hosts of one of the first Summer leagues, the Rocky Mountain Review. It was popular, had a number of teams coming in each year, and gave fans a chance to satiate their unquenchable thirst for basketball. In Utah basketball was the only game in town back then. Right now the Jazz still have minor league baseball and one of the best major league soccer teams on the continent. But back to the past - the Rocky Mountain Review was one of the premiere Summer leagues, and other ones (like the Long Beach) were far behind. Then Vegas started their own one about a decade ago.
Back in 2004, the Vegas Summer League was formed and its growth eventually led to the demise of the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City. The Utah Jazz, which had supported the summer league event in its city, vowed not to participate in Las Vegas.
And that one hurt. It hurt because Utah used to even hold home games in Las Vegas, and another Summer league popped up in a flashier place that started to slowly but surely steal NBA teams from the RMR. More teams committed to Vegas than RMR, and eventually the Jazz stopped holding one. They took their proverbial talents to the Orlando Summer League instead and stayed with the small market / one team host theory.
It made no sense unless you held grudges. And our Utah Jazz franchise was one that did. I'm not privy to all of the information that others have, but I do have access to a map. And I know that Orlando is pretty far from Salt Lake City.
I know from firsthand experience how many people the Jazz org sends to the NBA Draft Combine - I can only imagine how many people they'd send to a Summer League (including trainers, coaches, PR goons, and so forth). It couldn't have been cheap. But I'm not a successful businessman, so I'm sure paying triple or more of what you normally would is better than paying someone you call an enemy. Well, it seems like they are trying to bury the hatchet right now. And it's not just one side doing the talking.
"Las Vegas has always supported the Jazz and it was clearly a consensus among my staff that Utah needed to be included," said Warren LeGarie, the founder of the summer league and who helps run the event for the NBA. "I think it was just a matter of being persistent and persistency won out.
"It's going to be great for the fans in Utah to make the drive over to Vegas and watch the new players they bring in and the young players they already have. We expect it's going to boost attendance a lot."
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said it's important for the Jazz to develop its young talent closer to home.
"Having our training camp in Orlando was difficult for us and we felt it was time to move forward," Lindsey said. "We feel there's a natural tie-in with Las Vegas and it'll be great for our fans to follow us be able to see our young players. We're very excited about the move."
So that's nice. And I think we know who the head man on this is, it seems to be a Dennis Lindsey thing, and not a Kevin O'Connor or Greg Miller thing. I could be wrong, and I invite people to correct me so I learn. But this screams Lindsey. It's, after all, the smart move. You save money, you maximize the days you have available with the players. And, frankly, you can get more out of it.
Being able to hold a 4-5 day summer league camp in SLC before going down to Vegas was a factor in Jazz opting to switch from Orlando.— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) March 22, 2014
Jazz want to engage hometown fans before summer league. Lindsey said an open practice and autograph session are possibilities before Vegas.— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) March 22, 2014
The biggest factor to switch is for team and fans is logistics. Lindsey: "It's a lot easier to get to Vegas than it is the East Coast."— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) March 22, 2014
It seems win-win, really.
For me it appears exactly that way. First of all, Vegas brings in the better talent and a better program. Each team plays three games and then there's a knock out. Last year Golden State won it, and ended up playing 7 games. That's more than we got to play last year in Orlando. Better bang for your buck if you actually have a team that wins. (Of course, the Jazz use the summer league like they should use the D-league - to evaluate players.) There's no real winner in the Summer League, but for the Jazz they'll face off against better teams in a better venue (fans are allowed to go to this)
|2013 Teams (n=22)||2014 Teams (n=24)|
|1||Atlanta Hawks||Atlanta Hawks|
|2||Charlotte Bobcats||Charlotte Bobcats|
|3||Chicago Bulls||Chicago Bulls|
|4||Cleveland Cavaliers||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|5||Dallas Mavericks||Dallas Mavericks|
|6||Denver Nuggets||Denver Nuggets|
|7||Golden State Warriors||Golden State Warriors|
|9||Los Angeles Clippers||Los Angeles Clippers|
|10||Los Angeles Lakers||Los Angeles Lakers|
|12||Miami Heat||Miami Heat|
|13||Milwaukee Bucks||Milwaukee Bucks|
|14||Minnesota Timberwolves||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|15||NBA D-League Select||NBA D-League Select|
|16||New Orleans Pelicans||New Orleans Pelicans|
|17||New York Knicks||New York Knicks|
|19||Phoenix Suns||Phoenix Suns|
|20||Portland Trail Blazers||Portland Trail Blazers|
|21||Sacramento Kings||Sacramento Kings|
|22||San Antonio Spurs||San Antonio Spurs|
|23||Toronto Raptors||Toronto Raptors|
|25||Washington Wizards||Washington Wizards|
It will be awesome for Ian Clark to return to the scene of the crime, and re-take some of his mojo back.
As a member of SB Nation it's a win for me too. The company rents a house in Vegas every year and it's a huge networking opportunity for contributors from all the blogs. And there's an annual SB Nation vs TrueHoop bball game that we routinely school them in. Because Orlando was so small-time SLC Dunk got shut out of it a few years in a row. SB Nation deals directly with the NBA for Vegas, and this means we could be sending people down to cover it live.
So that's a win-win for this blog and the fans too. Why? Because YOU can go to the games too. (It may be time for an off-season SLC Dunk Meet up)
But more than the blog, or the fans, or whatever -- it's going to be better for the players. And most importantly, better for the franchise going forward. First of all, having to hide away your team from 'distractions' and treating them like kids only makes YOU look like a Mickey Mouse organization. These are men who get paid like men and work like men. I know one of the talking heads in Utah tried to blame the FANS for why Free Agents don't come here. That's dumb. I think there are internal reasons why. Trying to live in that Andy Griffith world is one of them.
The Strip in Las Vegas HAS a lot of distractions. But that's life. If a player wants to make it they'll be focused. They'll reveal it themselves, don't force them into hiding a flaw. Ask them to bring it out in front of you. Because character is something we all care about. It's easy to look like an angel in Disneyland. It's hard not to be a devil in Vegas. I can understand the fear of bringing Kanter to Las Vegas -- but this is a guy who went to the Playboy Mansion. That ship has sailed. But part of growing up is letting go.
And that ship seems seems to be ready to launch as well. Not holding the grudge of Vegas is a start. Hopefully this ushers in a new, mature, more accessible Jazz franchise in the future. Don't trash players who leave the franchise. Don't call fans stupid. And don't try to hide everything behind some curtain like you are the wizard of Oz.
Everyone makes mistakes. Dennis Lindsey's version of the Utah Jazz looks to finally learn from them.