No disgruntled superstar from another NBA franchise was sent to Utah this summer in a blockbuster trade. And July’s annual free agency spend-a-thon saw the Jazz retain their own guys from the restricted market rather than lure in a marquee name with a nine-figure deal.
No wonder, then, that the offseason narrative was about the organization remaining largely the same, right?
The thing is, pretty much everyone who took a turn sitting up on the dais for Monday’s media day session at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus made it a point to mention all the things that were actually different, in the NBA equivalent of an elementary school teacher-assigned “What I Did on Summer Vacation” report.
Second-year star Donovan Mitchell said having reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert healthy would facilitate greater on-court chemistry between the two.
“Now, we don’t have that period where we’re trying to figure each other out,” Mitchell said. “From the beginning, we’ll know what to expect from each other.”
For his part, Gobert cited an increased emphasis on footwork, finishing at the rim, even adding a jump shot.
“I’ve just scratched the potential of what I can do, so far," he said. "I feel like this is gonna be my best year.”
Derrick Favors joked about hoisting up 3-pointers, but was serious in expressing his newfound embrace of “doing the dirty work.” Jae Crowder focused on losing weight and becoming more mobile. Dante Exum is working on improving pull-up jumpers, while Raul Neto is trying to add a mid-range floater to his repertoire. Ekpe Udoh has a running hook in the works. Tony Bradley is emphasizing taking better angles on screens. Even rookie Grayson Allen — a rare new addition to the roster — said he picked up some new off-ball actions.
“Internal development” may not be sexy and may not be what generates headlines on those long summer days, but head coach Quin Snyder said it is what could set the Jazz apart this season.
“It’s incremental gains throughout different areas,” he said. “If we offensive-rebound a little better, turn it over a little less, finish a little better. … Can we shoot the ball from the 3-point line better? Can we shoot more? … If we can be elite defensively, we can win a lot of games.”
All that said, there are just some things about the Jazz that just aren’t going to change.
“We’re just gonna come in and do what we do,” forward Joe Ingles said in a rare moment of seriousness. “We know what we need to do to be a good team, and we’ll obviously start that as of tomorrow [at training camp].”