The Stampede is dead. Long live the Stars.
That's the biggest story of the day out of Jazzland, as they bring their D-League affiliate closer to home. (No more red-eye flights from Boise for you, Tibor Pleiss.) We'll also cover Dante Exum getting antsy and Gordon Hayward's competitive nature. And your FanPosts, of course. It's your Tuesday Downbeat, so get your Booty-O's ready.
In case you missed it, here's the press conference introducing the Salt Lake City Stars:
The change makes sense for a few reasons. The Stars roster will be able to participate with the senior team on a daily basis, when schedules and activities allow. Renaming the team is a smart way to access the Stars brand, which still carries a certain cachet locally (Utah's defunct WNBA franchise notwithstanding) and still has strong ties to certain Jazz personnel, especially Ron Boone.
And the Jazz have been placing greater marketing emphasis on the state of Utah lately anyway, as seen in their #WeAreUtah campaign. Whatever aspirations the Jazz might have once had to access the partisan population in Idaho and elsewhere (including playing preseason games there), it seems they're pivoting toward a focus on the homefront.
So how often will the average Jazz fan get out to SLCC for a Stars game? I dunno. It's fun to see rookies and players with main-roster potential, but D-League basketball often isn't very good otherwise. The Jazz's previous local D-League endeavor, the Flash, struggled mightily in Utah County (and there's no lack of serious Jazz fans down here). But that could have been mismanagement as much as anything, and the D-League's in a much healthier place overall these days.
Bottom line, this can't hurt the big-league Jazz, and it has the potential to be pretty cool.
Oh, and I can't move on without commenting on the new SLC Stars logo and uniforms:
Hello, Basketball World! ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/jnfkhnO7CH— Salt Lake City Stars (@slcstars) April 4, 2016
I love the main mark here. It uses the same navy and gold colors from the Jazz palette, the ball in the star is very clean and simple, and the SLC is slightly arched to follow the contours of the ball's seams. Pretty much perfect.
The uniforms are clean and classic, too:
Rendering of our Salt Lake City Stars jerseys pic.twitter.com/HtAnieJkmy— Salt Lake City Stars (@slcstars) April 4, 2016
The arched wordmarks don't work quite as well without the basketball seams as a frame, and I've heard it said that the stars to either side might be uncomfortably nipple-esque. But the Adidas three-stripes look nice, the J-note is a cool touch, and I appreciate the embrace of the SLC abbreviation. Solid stuff.
Over the past few weeks, I've been a strong believer that the Jazz really need to make the playoffs to continue their development. But I hadn't fully considered how emotionally and psychologically important that goal is to the Jazz players, especially Gordon Hayward. Here's the Trib's Aaron Falk:
"Gordon's a really competitive guy and he's used to winning," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "I think that's something that's been consistent throughout his career. It's important to him, there's no question about it. You've seen that. He's been an ironman."
Hayward brushes off questions about his ailing foot, which caused him to miss two games last month and still nags him now. He knows how much his team needs him with just five games remaining and the Jazz back in the playoff hunt, desperate to make the postseason for the first time since 2012.
"It's really exciting," Hayward said. "Each game means so much. This is what you play the game for to have a stretch like this."
I think it will mean a ton to this team if they finish the job and make the playoffs, even if they end up getting blasted in the first round. It's been a long rebuilding process, and no player enjoys losing. I lose sight of that sometimes as a fan; during the rebuild I wanted what was best for the long-term development of the franchise, even if that meant a few more losses in the short term. That's a lot harder to take as a player.
Fortunately, that's no longer a problem. Now it's all about winning.
Junior Matos2 on when the Jazz will truly be a contender:
The Jazz are coming and this post season, whether it be the Warriors, the Clippers or the Spurs, they should be afraid to play the Jazz the dominance of Gordan Hayward from beyond the arc and Rudy Gobert's dominance down low with offensive and defensive rebounds and his ability to score on our backs and alley oops. They have the ability to beat anyone. They have been able to defeat Lebron James and the Cavaliers and completely destroyed Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in Kobe's farewell tour. The Jazz are a team to be reckon with and other teams will soon find out what they can do.
BTork on the importance of getting into fifth place in the West:
If the Jazz want to make the playoffs, any place will do, if the Jazz want a respectable showing in the playoffs, i say, only 5th will do.
And visiting Suns fan Jaay Thomas asks about Dante Exum:
I'm a Suns fan that has not been keeping track of Dante Exum at all since the draft. I really want to know what's going on with him. I know he's had injury problems, but is he a bust? Is he what you thought he was going to be? I have a buddy that's been saying Exum will be a bust even before the draft. I also don't watch Jazz games unless they play the Suns. When is he going to return? Are you wanting to trade him? Please enlighten me Jazz fans.
Our next Downbeat item might be able to help with that last one.
I don't think we've yet mentioned this Gordon Monson interview with Exum, published over the weekend:
One of the scarce graces of a serious knee injury at the age of 20, of having patience forcefully wedged into his basketball experience, is that the downtime has given Exum a chance to ease the whole thing back, to watch and learn, to soak in his surroundings and to set his place in them.
And that, along with healing, is exactly what the point guard has done.
His mind, essentially, has caught up with his body, with where the hint and promise of his physical attributes have carried him.
"It's given me an opportunity to kind of work on everything that I need to work on, and step back from the game and be able to learn," he said. "Being away from playing, and seeing the team, you get to kind of realize how we can get better."
Sweet merciful heavens, I can't wait to watch that boy play basketball again.
WrestleMania was on Sunday night. It was...meh. But which current Jazz player would make the best professional wrestler? Hit the poll and give me gimmicks in the comments.