Derrick Favors has been through Utah Jazz media day enough — nine times now — to know what’s coming. So when he arrived at the podium Monday, he started answering reporters' questions before they could ask them.
“All right, here we go," Favors started his monologue. "Me and Rudy can coexist, we’re both gonna be improved. I’ve been working on my three-point shot. Donovan, he’s an exceptional player. We did not see that coming last year, we know he’s gonna get better this upcoming season. We’re gonna throw last season away, we’re just looking toward the future. And as for my contract, I’m just happy to be here.”
Well, that settles that.
But that familiarity drove the discussions on Monday: this team has been through a season together now, and the players know exactly what to expect from each other — and the media — up and down the roster.
It’s not an accident that it has turned out this way, either. Keeping the roster together was as much of an empirical decision as anything else.
“We do our private studies relative to continuity,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “Something that matters just as much if not more than experience is continuity and keeping the team together.”
For Ricky Rubio, that’s new. For the last five seasons, he’s had a new head coach at the beginning of every campaign, cycling from Rick Adelman to Flip Saunders to Sam Mitchell to Tom Thibodeau before finally joining Quin Snyder’s Jazz squad last summer.
“Being here three weeks before training camp starts helps build that chemistry that we had last year,” Rubio said, referencing the Olympic stint that prevented him from coming to training camp until just before media day last year. “Now knowing how he works, I’m going to be better and more comfortable. I hope the results are even better than last year.”
Of course, the continuity only works if it’s for a cause. Without goals, having a similar roster from one year to the next isn’t an identity, it’s just a group of coworkers who travel together. For Snyder, the distinction is important, and he’s clear about what he wants his team to stand for.
“The chemistry, the unselfishness, the defense,” Snyder said. “Our ability to move the ball and get open shots. I think toughness became a defining characteristic of our team. Those are the things that define who this group is.”
That’s not to say that Snyder’s 20-man roster is homogeneous; the players each find different ways to approach Snyder and Lindsey’s ideal. Rudy Gobert is famously driven by becoming one of the best players in the world, even telling reporters that he hasn’t “scratched the potential [he thinks he] can have on both ends.” On the other hand, Joe Ingles goes to the gym and tries to improve for different reasons: “I just enjoy basketball and enjoy life. I don’t know what everyone gets so stressed about all the time. I get to throw around a ball for a living.”
It’s that mesh of personalities that has gone a long way toward re-igniting the fan base, even to a degree beyond the Jazz’s level of success. And while there’s a significant distance left to go, this Jazz team as constructed has even executives dreaming big.
“When I say that the team grabbed the imagination and the heart of the city, well, I’m part of the city,” Lindsey said.
Here are some of the most interesting other things we learned on media day Monday:
- Quin Snyder clarified his coaching staff hierarchy — or rather, the lack of one. “We don’t have player development coaches, we don’t have offensive coordinators, we don’t have defensive coordinators. … We have coaches," Snyder said. “Three guys sit on the bench, everyone else sits behind the bench. To me, that line is blurred.”
- Donovan Mitchell said Grayson Allen, Ekpe Udoh, Derrick Favors, and Jae Crowder have impressed in open gym sessions. Mitchell minimized the impact that the bruised foot had on his summer workout plans.
- Crowder and Favors have lost about 15 pounds each. Mitchell: “It’s not that they weren’t in shape last year, but they’re way more in shape this year.”
- Raul Neto picked up a hamstring injury in pickup games last week, and will be re-evaluated by the team in two weeks. Due to the mercurial nature of hamstring injuries, he doesn’t know whether he’ll be ready by the beginning of the regular season, and mentioned missing two to six weeks as possibilities.
- Dante Exum worked on his pull-up jumper and finishing in transition this summer, among other skills. While he expects to play mostly point guard, he also wants to take advantage of his versatility. “We can play me, Ricky, and Donovan together,” Exum said.
- Ekpe Udoh plans to bring the authors of the books featured in “Ekpe’s Book Club” to Utah to discuss their work with his book club and the community as a whole.