Kragthorpe: Jazz’s Dennis Lindsey asking for long-term trust

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Tribune Columnist

Published: July 7, 2013 06:00PM
Updated: July 6, 2013 11:14PM
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Kurt Kragthorpe

In a recent media briefing, Greg Miller spent more than two hours outlining the corporate structure of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies that he runs, explaining who reports to whom and how it all works.

Auto dealerships, financial operations, movie theaters and real estate aside, this is all that Jazz fans really need to know: Dennis Lindsey is in charge, and this whole thing is going to require some faith in him.

The new general manager’s vision for rebuilding the Jazz is becoming more clear, but all I know for sure is that his project will take a while.

You wanted the kids? You’ve got the kids.

Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are going to play even more minutes than anyone ever hoped they would, because they’re the only options. Gordon Hayward is the team leader, whether he likes it or not. Trey Burke is the starting point guard, unless something unusual happens. Alec Burks’ only competition at the moment is Brandon Rush, who’s coming off a knee injury.

The reality is that the Jazz have gone three years without winning a playoff game, and it might be another three years before that happens. Lindsey gained credibility by moving up to draft Burke, and now he’s asking for a lot more trust as his long-term plan unfolds.

Basically, the Jazz are sacrificing the 2013-14 season for a lottery pick and salary-cap room via expiring contracts. That’s not to say it’ll be uninteresting. This season will become a test on multiple levels: How much will Favors and Kanter improve? How supportive will fans remain, amid all the losing? How will coach Tyrone Corbin perform in a season that’s fully devoted to development?

That’s the fallout of free agency this summer, with Al Jefferson (Charlotte) and Paul Millsap (Atlanta) departing. The Jazz are absorbing Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Rush from Golden State, mostly in the interest of having two first-round draft picks and more roster options in the 2014 offseason.

As the future comes into view, Jefferson and Millsap deserve some appreciation. They had their flaws, while trying to marry their own career interests with the team’s needs. Jefferson cared about winning, to the extent that scoring points theoretically helped the team. Millsap tried, but couldn’t thrive in a situation that demanded his adjusting to different rotations.

Even so, Jefferson’s game grew on me. He’s a remarkable low-post player and mid-range shooter and, beyond serving as a media convenience, his role as team spokesman showed leadership and accountability.

Millsap never became an All-Star, but he was pretty dependable for seven seasons, with the kind of humble, steady demeanor that plays well in Utah. As the last link to the Jazz’s playoff series victory over Denver in 2010, he’ll have a legacy here until Lindsey’s investment work takes hold, assuming that ever happens.

At this time last year, someone would have had to live in San Antonio or follow the NBA very closely to even know the name of Dennis Lindsey. And now — even though Kevin O’Connor technically remains above him — this guy is radically reshaping the Jazz, or at least giving himself an opportunity to do so.

The Jazz’s cooperation enabled Golden State to unload some big contracts and sign free agent Andre Iguodala. Meanwhile, the Jazz’s return on the deal is very much deferred. Lindsey’s options were to do something bold in free agency or just keep his future possibilities open. He obviously chose patience.

When it comes to buying tickets in 2013-14, Jazz followers have to decide if they’re willing to play the same game.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt