Utah Jazz: Joe Johnson still feels youthful zest for game

First Published      Last Updated Jul 04 2017 09:40 pm

Jazz notes » Veteran forward has one year left on contract.

It was an answer, but Joe Johnson phrased it as a question.

"I don't even know," he said. "When do you say when?"

The 35-year-old forward knows he's entered the territory where each season could be his last after 16 seasons in the NBA. But after the last year with the Utah Jazz, his fifth NBA franchise, and reflecting on the way he defied Father Time in a standout seven-game series with the L.A. Clippers, Johnson didn't sound like a man considering retirement.

He sounded more like a rookie.

"I still have those butterflies in my stomach before every game," he said. "Even before practice."

Johnson's comments were a hopeful coda on the season among Utah's exit interviews Tuesday. He has another year left on his contract after signing as a free agent last summer. While he fumbled a bit when complimenting his new home — "Utah is also a great city," he said — he seemed to glow when talking about the season his team had.

Johnson emphasized the Jazz's youth and momentum, saying that the group ran out of steam for the series against the Golden State Warriors, but that the playoffs as a whole were "a great experience for this group."

It was a great experience in particular for Johnson, who upped his season averages to 12.9 ppg and 3.9 rpg in the playoffs while playing hero in Games 1 and 4, leading the Jazz to wins.

Johnson said his experience has led him to believe that Utah has all the momentum it needs as an organization as long as the core, including free agents Gordon Hayward and George Hill, returns. He's already begun recruiting efforts to that effect.

"We all sit around and talk," he said. "I hope whatever needs to happen happens for those guys to come back."

Sprucing up the practice facility

The renovation of Vivint Smart Home Arena is expected to be completed in time for the start of next season. The Jazz, meanwhile, also are in the process of renovating their west-side Salt Lake City practice facility, bringing basketball and business operations under the same roof.

The renovated 90,000 square-foot facility will include a new player locker room, a lounge and gaming area, new fitness, sports medicine and dining areas and an outdoor recreational court.

"Along with the renovation of Vivint Smart Home Arena, this investment will ensure from the practice gym to our home arena that the Jazz will have world-class facilities to back our championship aspirations," Steve Miller, vice chairman of the Board of Directors for the Larry H. Miller Management Corporation, said in a news release.

Burks looking to bounce back

Alec Burks thinks he can get his explosive athleticism back before next season without needing another surgery on his leg, but he says he's "nowhere near" 100 percent heading into the offseason.

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