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O'Connor won't 'put a ceiling' on Jazz's goals as season begins

Published October 31, 2012 6:01 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Greetings from opening night.

The Jazz tip off the season at 7 p.m. against the undefeated Dallas Mavericks. The game will be televised on ROOT Sports. The Mavs will be without All-NBA power forward Dirk Nowitzki and potentially center Chris Kaman, who is listed as doubtful. Following Wednesday's shoot around, Jazz executive Kevin O'Connor addressed the media and attempted to lay out goals for the upcoming season. A day after General Manager Dennis Lindsey said the Jazz were "many steps away" from a championship, O'Connor was asked if, in the wake of a first-round exit last year, the Jazz were shooting for progression to the conference semifinals this season.

"Our whole goal," O'Connor said, "is to continue to improve and would that be the next one? Sure, but that's not where we want to put a ceiling on. Certainly what we want to do is see how good this team can be."

Part of that will rest on the Jazz's depth at power forward, including youngsters Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

"It's like having too much starting pitching, you can't have that," O'Connor said. "Those guys are all going to compete for minutes. Certainly Paul [Millsap] and Al [Jefferson] are veterans, but it's a long season and a season takes a life of it's own in a lot of different segments: 25 games in, 50 games in, 75 games in."

O'Connor also addressed the blockbuster deal that sent James Harden to Houston from Oklahoma City, saying he felt "badly for a contemporary in Sam Presti, who I think is the best General Manager in the league."

The former Jazz GM credited Presti for building a championship caliber team, and commiserated with the pain of sacrificing a key player. It was a move similar to the Jazz's decision to trade Deron Williams two years ago when, before the star entered a contract year.

"They weren't able to pay him," O'Connor said. "They paid three other guys [Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka]. I think that sends a signal that Oklahoma City does want to compete and does want to win a championship. There's very few teams that can pay everybody. I don't need to mention names but I think you know who they are, that can."

Other highlights from O'Connor's wide-ranging interview:

On the competition for minutes among big men | What it's going to do is help our team. You can't feelings get hurt because they don't play as well as they're supposed to and somebody else plays, that's not what the coach is concerned. What he's concerned with is how those guys can help us win. But if you look at the teams that won last year, all of the teams that won had pretty darn good depth especially at big guy positions. A couple of years ago you had [Andrew] Bynum and [Pau] Gasol and Lamar Odom. I'm happy that we have that. I'm please that the guys have continued to improve."

On Derrick Favors' development | Everybody doesn't improve on a certain pattern and level. I saw this summer he did a terrific job. Watching him in preseason, I think it took him a while to get his legs underneath him. I don't think he came in the shape he wanted to. I think he got a little surprised at how quick we were going to play this year, but over the last couple of games we've seen the improvement that you want to see.

On the addition of Dennis Lindsey to the front office | It's been terrific, he's a professional. He's come from a place that obviously people forget that he came from Houston, too, where they had some success in a very different way than they did in San Antonio - I hate even mentioning that word after last year.

On the Jazz exercising a team option on Tyrone Corbin's contract this week | What we feel like is if you get somebody that you really like that wants to be here and you want here I think it's important that you express that to somebody. And let him know that this is something you don't have to do, something we wanted to do.

On whether he agrees the Jazz are better from last year | No. We haven't proven it yet. You can do all the paperwork you want, you can put everything on paper that we should be better at this position, we should be better at that position, you've got to go out and prove it. I like the fact that we've added pieces that I think will make us better, but I don't want to say to you that we're absolutely better. What I want to say to you is I believe we have improved ourselves. Now we've got to prove it.

— Bill Oram