The season is officially upon us. The Utah Jazz held their official media with all of Utah’s players stepping up to the podium and giving their expectations of the upcoming 2018-2019 season. The theme from this year’s media day? If you ask Rudy Gobert, it’s about being your best.
“As a team, we’re going to be the best we’ve been so far.”
- Rudy Gobert
The study of continuity
The Utah Jazz consciously decided to bring back as much of their roster as they possibly could. The only person missing from last year’s surprise run to the 2nd round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs is Jonas Jerebko. In Jerebko’s place is Grayson Allen, the Jazz’s newest draft pick. Otherwise, continuity and being the best version of themselves are the Jazz’s main objectives. Dennis Lindsey talking about their strategy in the offseason said, “We were going to err toward continuity.”
Dennis Lindsey said they put in a lot of research on the benefits of continuity to learn how—or if—they could benefit from it.
#JazzMediaDay— Austin Horton (@austinhorton) September 24, 2018
Dennis Lindsey says the team really studied continuity and the positive impact it could have on the Jazz, and then decided to try and bring back as many of last year's squad as possible.
But even Dennis Lindsey isn’t naive to believe that keeping the same team from last year is going to magically allow this roster to have the same chemistry and camaraderie that the team enjoyed on the second half of the season. “No one can sit up here and think that we were going to be this good this soon. We’re anxious to learn about this team,” Dennis Lindsey said about last year. “We’re not going to sit here today and pre-suppose that the chemistry is going to be as good. If it’s not, we’ll have to make some decisions.”
So while the Utah Jazz’s goal is to keep this squad together, they’re doing it not in the spirit of being a feel good story, but because they think this is the best rout they can take to be the best version of their team. If not, Dennis Lindsey more than anyone else knows that this team enjoys a unique blend of cap flexibility, expiring contracts, young assets, and star talent to attract or trade for a high impact NBA player.
Quin Snyder also had the same sentiments. While it would be easy to say this team has to build on last season, Snyder wants us to remember that this is a completely new season and, therefore, a completely new experiment.
“I don’t want to pick up where we left off—this is a new journey, “ said Snyder. “We can take the experience with us.”
Interesting. Quin Snyder is calling the season a "new journey" rather than picking up where they left off in the spring— Ryan McDonald (@ryanwmcdonald) September 24, 2018
The names that kept up coming up this media day—other than Utah’s star guard Donovan Mitchell—were Dante Exum, Derrick Favors, and Jae Crowder. When talking about Dante Exum, Dennis Lindsey said it wasn’t fair to refer to Exum as an “X-factor,” but they are seeing positive signs from last year.
Dante Exum and the $11 million dollar a year question
“If Dante performs at the same level as he did last year PER36 minutes—if he can maintain that—he can be a factor. He’s 6’6, he’s smart, and he’s committed. I expect good things from him going forward.”
Dante Exum said he has a lot more confidence going into next season while citing the Rico Hines’ runs as why. “I wanted to improve my mindset in different aspects of the game,” said Exum. “I want to be able to push the ball and improve in transition.”
Donovan Mitchell also had nice things to say about the 5th year guard. Tony Jones of The Athletic reported that Donovan Mitchell said pretty emphatically that Dante Exum had improved from last season citing his improved poise, athleticism, and mindset. Said he was a standout at OTA’s.
Donovan Mitchell said pretty emphatically that Dante Exum has improved— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) September 24, 2018
Mitchell said Exum has improved his poise and athleticism and skillset, played well in OTA's— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) September 24, 2018
Donovan Mitchell shoes and improvement
Speaking of Donovan Mitchell, the sophomore guard showed up in his new Adidas Crazy BYW’s to media day. As many out there know, he has been selected as one of three athletes to have their own version of the Adidas shoe. No signature shoe yet, but if he has another year like last year, it’s not an if, but a when.
In non shoe news, Donovan said he has a lot to work on this season. The main thing he wants to improve on is allowing the game to slow down for him. Donovan plays a relentless style, but allowing himself to have different gears, rather than just On/Off, will help his game tremendously.
Learning how to slow down and make proper passes and reads. For me, just slow myself down, be patient and don’t be in a rush all the time.
- Donovan Mitchell
Donovan talked about how he had a lot of time to get out of the house and enjoy Utah. Mitchell more than any star in past Jazz memory has been out and about in the community. That has been intentional.
“I live alone so I have the opportunity to get out there and enjoy Utah,” said Mitchell of his legendary social media summer. “As a young kid I wanted to meet my favorite player so to give the kids that opportunity means a lot to me. I just want to enjoy where I’m at.”
Donovan Mitchell when asked about defending his dunk title said he wasn’t sure, but that felt more like a coy answer so he could wait to see his competition develop throughout the season.
Rudy Gobert tries to make Donovan choose
Rudy Gobert shared the podium with Donovan Mitchell. Gobert said he had been working on his footwork and jumpshot. Talking about his improvement Gobert had this to say, “I haven’t scratched the potential I think I can have on both ends.”
Gobert did give Donovan Mitchell a good ribbing when it came to Donovan’s college moonlighting throughout the offseason in Utah.
Gobert: Who’s your favorite football team in Utah?
Mitchell dodging the question: Louisville.
Derrick Favors and Jae Crowders weight loss and mindset
Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder were mentioned quite a bit, not because of their serious GAINZ, but what they had lost. Both Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder showed up to camp much slimmer than last year. Derrick Favors said much of last season he was playing at 265 lbs, but he had dropped 10 to 15 lbs since the end of last season. Jae Crowder lost 14 lbs. Both lost the weight with the objective of being able to guard the perimeter better.
“I changed my diet up a little bit. I wanted to get leaner so I can guard on the perimeter, “ Favors said. “I think it helped me out a lot during this summer with some pick up games. I’m moving quicker ... and it’s paying off for me.”
Donovan Mitchell even noticed. “Not that they weren’t in shape last year, “ the second year phenom opined. “But they’re way more in shape this year.”
Derrick Favors also showed how much a #MediaDay veteran he has become. When arriving to the podium before anyone could ask anything, Derrick was ready for the usual Derrick Favors questions. “Yes, me and Rudy can coexist. Yes, I’ve been working on 3-pointers.”
While Favors joked around, the 8 year veteran did mention how he had matured during his time in Utah.
“I’ve matured a lot since I got here. I found a comfort level and I’m starting to enjoy it more and have a little bit more fun. I like being here.”
- Derrick Favors
Jae Crowder also went through some mental hurdles over the past year. It’s well known that Crowder was traded twice last season, finally ending up in Utah. What wasn’t as well known is right before the first trade to Cleveland, Jae Crowder’s mother had passed away. Dealing with the grief and the constant changes in scenery took its toll on the wingman.
“I wasn’t moving like I should have last year,” said Jae Crowder reflecting on last season. “That’s me probably not being as engaged in basketball as a whole. I just got back to the basics, worked my butt off, and got more engaged. Having fun with the grind and the workouts.”
Ricky Rubio’s next step
Dennis Lindsey said one of the big ways Utah could improve on last year was improving their team offense. Improving on their 16th ranked offense would be a big priority.
Lindsey says the plans are to work hard and find a way for the collective whole to improve on being 'the 16th ranked offensive team' the Jazz ended up being last year.— Austin Horton (@austinhorton) September 24, 2018
You can’t mention improving the Jazz offense without wondering how Ricky Rubio will fit into that. The most common question going into training camp relates to Ricky Rubio’s streaky 3 point shooting. Rubio for two seasons in a row has shot lights out from the 3 point line post All Star break. Does the team believe Rubio can do that for a season? Speaking about Ricky Rubio, Dennis Lindsey had this to say:
One of the best players in my 22 years of playing all the way through a defensive possession. It’s weird how inordinately good he is on a post switch. Catching rebounds on the move like Jason Kidd.
He’s worked very hard. This was the first year in many years he hasn’t had a national team schedule. Hopefully, that will help his healthy and energy as much as anything. I would expect that he’s going to have a terrific season.
While we mere mortals look at improved three point shooting as the be all end all of offensive improvement Lindsey reminded us that a lot of things that Rubio can do won’t necessarily show up immediately on the box score.
Ricky Rubio even said the familiarity with the team is going to help tremendously with his game. “I know what coach wants from me, and we’re just going to get better. Last year everything was new,” said Rubio. “Now knowing how it works, it’s going to be better, more comfortable, and I hope the results are even better than last year.”
Improving on offense is important, but Quin is still focused on the defensive side of the ball
With Utah focusing on continuity, the improvement has to come from new development from on the roster. Quin Snyder was adamant that they had some guys that they think can make big strides from last season. But that won’t be enough for the team. Everyone has to improve. Quin wants the team to shoot more threes, he wants everyone to get better “at all levels.” It’s easy to focus on the weakness of the Jazz’s offense and say that Utah has to shore it up, but Quin is laser focused on the Jazz differentiating their team on the defensive end rather than creating parity with others on the offensive end.
“More than anything, it’s a question of being better at something we’re already pretty good at: defense. We can be elite defensively. Not just good, but elite. If we can do that, we’ll have a chance to win.”
- Quin Snyder
Thabo Sefolosha back to full health
One player who played a big part in the Jazz’s season, but didn’t get to enjoy the thrill of playing when the team started winning was Thabo Sefolosha. When asked about how the knee was feeling he said, “Super excited to get back. The knee feels great and I’ve been back to playing 5 on 5.”
Thabo is a wrinkle in the Jazz’s defense that they didn’t get to employ in the playoffs. He would have really come in handy against OKC and Houston.
Thabo had a glowing review of Dante Exum even, “I’m excited for Dante to get out there and show his speed and athleticism.”
Big Ekpe’s Book Club news
Ekpe Udoh talked about how it would be important for this team to start fast when the season begins. True words. The Jazz’s schedule is brutal to start out the season. Getting started on the right foot would allow Utah to enjoy some nights in February with considerably less pressure to win.
Foe Ekpe’s Book Club fans out there, there was some big news in the book club. This season, Udoh will start an author speaking series where authors of the books he selects for the club will come and discuss them with Ekpe, the club, and community. Ekpe continues to be an amazing influence on this team.
Newcomer Grayson Allen has caught the attention of Donovan Mitchell. Donovan Mitchell said he’s one of the guys who has made significant progress during OTA’s. Grayson Allen said the best way for him to earn playing time was to hit shots, play defense, and avoid shaking up the chemistry of the team. When asked about his patented troll like behavior and how player might come at him given his reputation he said, “I’m not backing down. I’m not going anywhere.”
No word yet on what pink princess backpack has been selected for the Duke product.
Joe Ingles talked about his little back and forth with Blake Griffin and his sense of humor.
Ingles,"I just enjoy basketball and enjoy life. I don't know what everyone gets so stressed about all the time."— Tony Parks (@tonyparkszone) September 24, 2018
He also trolled players from the back of the room.
Ricky Rubio was sporting the messy pony tail/man bun.
Thabo feels that he’s going to be playing the 4 in small ball lineups a lot this season.
Dante Exum was late for his podium time because of a last minute physical. Evidently he wasn’t able to complete everything prior to media day. It added to some odd drama.
Georges Niang said Quin Snyder’s attention to detail was incredible. Also, he said he locked Dante Exum in a closet when Dante was nowhere to be found.
Niang on what's impressed him about Quin Snyder: "I don't want to say he's a military mind, but his attention to detail is incredible."— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) September 24, 2018
Dante Exum expects to play more time at the three. He says the Jazz can play Ricky, Donovan, and himself at the same time.