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NBA: Jazz, Spurs inspire each other to small-market success
NBA » Spurs follow Jazz’s template to net small-market success.


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New inspiration » As Popovich and Buford shoot for a fifth title, the Jazz are stuck between rebuilding and competing with the best in the West. Even if Utah makes significant changes this summer, the Jazz are likely years away from becoming a championship contender.

The endless work has turned O’Connor into a young Buford.

At a glance

It’s crunch time for the Utah Jazz

Who » San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz

What » Game 3 of a Western Conference first-round playoff series

When » 8 p.m., Saturday

Where » EnergySolutions Arena

TV » ROOT Sports/TNT

Series » Spurs lead 2-0 in a best-of-seven matchup

Small-market powers

Since 1983-84

Spurs Jazz

NBA titles 4 0

Western Conf. Finals 7 6

Playoff appearances 25 25

50-win seasons 19 14

Primary coach Gregg Popovich Jerry Sloan

Key players Tim Duncan Karl Malone

David Robinson John Stockton

Tony Parker Deron Williams

Manu Ginobili

Current coach Gregg Popovich Tyrone Corbin

General manager R.C. Buford Kevin O’Connor

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The Jazz GM has referenced Detroit several times in the past year, drawing ideas from a starless Pistons team that advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals six consecutive seasons from 2003-08.

But Utah’s main inspiration is Oklahoma City. GM Sam Presti is highly respected by O’Connor and Buford, and NBA Commissioner David Stern included the Thunder with the Jazz and Spurs as the league’s small-market triumvirate when he visited Salt Lake City in April.

While San Antonio has spent 15 seasons revolving around Duncan, Oklahoma City shot into the upper echelon of the NBA by blending lottery picks with well-timed trades and well-executed signings.

The Thunder’s success has been part-Jazz, part-Spurs. It’s given O’Connor a blueprint for a post-Deron Williams future. And it’s already provided Utah with a young core of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks that should be running the court long after Duncan has left the game and San Antonio has entered a new era.

"It’s not necessarily spending the money and it’s not necessarily being in a big market," O’Connor said. "It’s trying to be in your own market and doing it the right way and having a little bit of patience."

bsmith@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz


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