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Utah Jazz: Dennis Lindsey spurs change with the Jazz

Published December 12, 2012 11:30 am

NBA • New general manager puts a little bit of San Antonio into Utah organization.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

When the Jazz added Dennis Lindsey to their front office in the offseason, putting the affable, young executive in charge of the franchise's day-to-day operations, they joined a virtual league-wide chase: To catch the San Antonio Spurs.

"I think a lot of people try to mimic Spurs and what they do," said Matt Harpring, the former Jazz player who now provides color commentary on the team's television broadcasts.

Hiring Lindsey, then the Spurs' assistant general manager, was a major step in that direction for the Jazz. Lindsey became the seventh disciple of Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford to be hired as an NBA GM.

After winning three straight games, the Jazz are sixth in the West going into Wednesday's game against the Spurs, who have beaten the Jazz in 10 of their last 11 matchups, including a first-round sweep in last year's playoffs. But the influence Lindsey brings to the franchise is aimed at long-term success. While he is trying to slowly integrate with the Jazz, melding his ideas with those of Executive Vice President Kevin O'Connor and others, he is leaving light, Spurs-tinged fingerprints across the organization.

"He's made a few [changes]," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said, "but I think right now he's getting comfortable, getting adjusted."

Noted for his use of advanced statistics, Lindsey — who worked in Houston before the Spurs — brings a thoughtful approach to basketball operations, although he said that the Jazz's use of analytics before his arrival "was more robust probably more than people realized."

That thoughtfulness also applies to health and physical recovery, a San Antonio staple as coach Gregg Popovich demonstrated with his high-profile and expensive decision to send Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home before the Spurs' nationally televised game at Miami last month.

While Lindsey is reticent when it comes to the team's inner workings, the Jazz for the first time provide breakfast following practices and pregame shoot-arounds. Lindsey said he wants to give the Jazz's team of trainers and doctors "all the tools and resources."

Model franchise • Since the slow dissipation of the Jazz's Western Conference dominance of the late 1990s, the Spurs have grown into the West's model franchise.

"We recognized that any success that we wanted to have would have to go through Salt Lake City," Buford told The Tribune during last year's playoff series. "… When you looked for places to establish a benchmark, they were the ones that fit us."

The relationship between the franchises is clear.

"The Spurs wanted to be like the Jazz," Harpring said, "and the Spurs took it to a different level. I think a lot of people would agree that San Antonio is the best-run NBA team in the land right now."

Since Popovich became San Antonio's head coach in 1997 — a move that, conveniently, coincided with drafting Tim Duncan No. 1 overall in that June's draft — the Spurs have won more than 70 percent of their games, claimed four NBA titles and advanced to at least the Western Conference finals seven times.

The Spurs have been blessed by the longevity of core players Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, a trio that has been together since 2001.

"The version of the Spurs you see right now," Lindsey said, "is very much like John [Stockton] and Karl [Malone], with a long run of sustained success."

When asked about the similarities between the Jazz and the Spurs, Lindsey ran off a long list, starting with organizational consistency. The Jazz are insular. When Jerry Sloan left abruptly as head coach in 2011, it was assistant and former Jazz player Tyrone Corbin the Miller family invested in.

Lindsey talks about a "coach-centric culture" with both franchises, and with the Jazz that has meant funneling all attention to Corbin, making it clear he is in charge. In what has been called an organizational decision, assistant coaches are now unavailable to the media unless special permission has been granted. Consistent with that policy, assistant Brad Jones — who previously coached the Austin Toros, the Spurs' D-League affiliate — was not made available to be interviewed for this story.

So will it work? • Of the seven NBA GMs who came up under Buford, Oklahoma City's Sam Presti has been the one bona fide success. He built the reigning Western Conference champions, a Thunder team that bounced the Spurs from the conference finals in six games.

"Everybody talks about a Spur model," Lindsey said. "Good luck trying to replicate David Robinson, Tim Duncan, RC Buford, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker."

San Antonio's run of success is unprecedented in the modern NBA, and if Lindsey brings high-level achievement to Salt Lake City, it won't be a carbon copy of the Spurs' success.

"I'm skeptical you can line all those things up again," he said. "What I think you can line up is a serious culture. I think you can line up acquiring great people."

In an NBA franchise, that starts at the top. The Jazz hope it starts with Lindsey. —

League-wide impact

NBA general managers with San Antonio roots:

Dennis Lindsey • Utah Jazz

Sam Presti • Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Pritchard • Indiana Pacers

Dell Demps • New Orleans Hornets

Rob Hennigan • Orlando Magic

Danny Ferry • Atlanta Hawks

Lance Blanks • Phoenix Suns —

Spurs at Jazz

P EnergySolutions Arena

Tipoff • Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.

TV • ROOT, ESPN

Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM

Records • Jazz 12-10; Spurs 18-4

Season series • Spurs 1-0

About the Jazz • The Jazz have lost 10 of their last 11 games against San Antonio, including last year's first-round playoff sweep. ... Derrick Favors is a gametime decision after missing five games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. ... Center Al Jefferson is tied for third in the NBA with 12 double-doubles, one fewer than Spurs veteran Tim Duncan.

About the Spurs • San Antonio is 11-2 on the road, including an overtime win in Houston on Monday. ... Tony Parker recorded his first career triple-double against the Rockets, notching 27 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.