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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.
It’s crunch time for the Utah JazzWho » 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
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
Current coach Gregg Popovich Tyrone Corbin
General manager R.C. Buford Kevin O’Connor
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."
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