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Every incremental narrative the Jazz have gone through this season has come with its own buzzword or catchphrase. Early on, the term du jour was “continuity,” in reference to bringing back so much of last year’s roster. This was quickly followed by “communication,” which was, apparently, the consistently-missing ingredient in an underperforming defense. For a bit, observers were inundated with “high pass,” as the team explained its offensive desire to throw lobs to Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.
And now? Well, in talking to players and coaches before and after three games this week, I noticed a new message. And while there was a certain haphazardness in terms of specific word usage, there was no lack of continuity in their communication. This team is now preaching the need for consistent zeal and ardor.
After the loss to the Spurs, Gobert was asked about why the second half was better than the first, and responded [all coming emphases are mine]: “We played with more force. We went to the line a little more, we attacked the rim a little more.” Ricky Rubio, meanwhile, asked about the Spurs in this matchup vs. the previous one, when the Jazz blew them out, replied, “They were more ready, they played with more edge.”
Following the loss to the Thunder, I asked coach Quin Snyder about OKC being more physical, and he said: “We have to be more forceful, we have to respond to that. That can’t force you into mistakes — you have to play through that, play with more force and play with more precision.” Rudy, explaining why Utah committed so many turnovers, said: “We just weren’t connected enough, aggressive enough. And when you’re not as aggressive as them, they just swallow you up.”
After beating the Heat, Donovan Mitchell used that same word a couple times while discussing his mindset about defense: “From the opening tip, I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive. … Starting literally from the tip, just being aggressive, trying to just cause havoc on defense.”
Week in review
• Jazz players — and all NBA players for that matter — get four tickets to every home game and two to every road game. But what do they do with them? Andy Larsen takes a look. [TRIB]
• Andy and I also recorded a new Weekly Run podcast. In this episode, we discussed the relationship between Donovan and Dwyane Wade, Gobert’s ongoing issues with officiating, and the two-game losing streak in San Antonio and Oklahoma City. [TRIB]
• Speaking of Rudy and the refs, the center talked to me post-game in OKC, and was particularly frustrated after a Steven Adams takedown that resulted in a foul call on Gobert. He said, if necessary, he’ll start getting justice himself, and “It’s gonna get ugly.” [TRIB]
• Columnist Gordon Monson also wrote about Rudy and the refs, saying that the Jazzman is getting jobbed. [TRIB]
• One more story about Rudy: Andy takes a look at the big man’s career evolution, and how he went from a G Leaguer fighting for minutes with Andris Biedrins, to the vocal leader of the Jazz. [TRIB]
• And finally, I dove into the Jazz’s 3-point shooting numbers to determine what kind of early impact Kyle Korver’s addition is having on the team’s long-ball shooting. [TRIB]
• Every week, ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe does a “Ten Things I Like and Don’t Like” feature of various tidbits from around the NBA. No. 4 on this week’s list is “Donovan Mitchell’s stalled passing game,” as he notes the guard is averaging fewer assists per game (3.2) this year than last year, and that his assist-to-turnover ratio is a less-than-stellar 81-to-65. [ESPN]
• Favors has been the Jazz’s starting four for a while now. But in this era of small ball, Jae Crowder is increasingly beginning games in his place. Mychal Lowman of slcdunk.com says it’s time to make that move for good. [SLC Dunk]
• Aaron Falk took an in-depth look at the relationship between Mitchell and Wade for the team’s website. [Utah Jazz]
• Before Wednesday’s game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he thinks it’s obvious why the Jazz have struggled early: “Their schedule has been outrageous. They’ve basically lived in a hotel for the first six weeks of the season. Come talk to me in two months and we’ll see what their record is.” Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News wrote about it. [DNews]
• The Jazz will have new green jerseys as part of the NBA’s “Earned Edition” program. FOX 13 provides some of the details behind them. [FOX 13]
• In other apparel news, SLC Dunk’s Lowman reported that Mitchell will be getting his own signature shoe from adidas, which is expected to debut late in 2019. [SLC Dunk]
• After Wednesday’s game, Wade’s last in SLC, he and fellow Marquette product Jae Crowder exchanged jerseys, which Crowder shared on social media. [Twitter]
Quote of the week
It’s been kinda D-Wade-centric, hasn’t it? No harm there. It’s not every week that a retiring 12-time All-Star who’s a mentor to the local team’s up-and-coming star passes through town, after all. So then, let’s use something from “Flash” himself, talking about a certain “Spida”:
“I was actually a fan of his game at Louisville — I watched him play his career there. … He’s someone I love to watch when I’m in the hotel room and I’m thinking about who to watch on TV. When Donovan’s playing, I like to tune in; I watch him play a little bit — he’s exciting. … He’s a force, he’s just a force. He can shoot off the pick-and-roll, he can shoot the 3, but also his driving ability. You gotta know where he’s at at all times; he’s exciting — one play can excite this crowd.”
The Jazz are going international with this Saturday’s game in Mexico City against the Orlando Magic. On Monday, Utah has yet another road game, this time in Houston. They are home again next Wednesday, when they’ll host the Golden State Warriors for the second time this season.