Let’s get rid of a popular but misguided notion that currently circulates around the Jazz, buzzing everywhere except for inside their own circle, as it pertains to their head coach.
No. Quin Snyder is not feeling extra pressure entering a season of high expectations for his team, no more than he places on himself every season. It is true that he constantly tears things apart and puts them back together again, working all types of roundball combinations and equations, hatching hoop novels in his mind, at every turn, at all hours.
But contrary to what a lot of people are saying, Snyder, now in his sixth year in Utah, is eager, not anxious, to see what he can create out of the stack of talent piled up in front of him.
He is nervous only in an anticipatory way, in the way an artist sees a blank sheet of fine canvas or a sculptor a block of unsullied marble or an author an empty computer screen, or, if that’s all just a bit too highfalutin, a ditch digger with rich, level soil to shovel.
How about this: He’s like an Indy car driver at the Brickyard sitting near the pole, a green flag up ahead, fairly convinced that he just might have one of the fastest cars on the track.
There are other fast cars, too.
Still, from his position, having what he’s got under the hood now is a whole lot better than having what he’s had in the past, when he had to maneuver like a madman to manufacture extra speed out of limited horses.
Now, he’s got a vehicle worthy of his acumen, his capabilities.
If that were to weigh Snyder down, he’d be in the wrong business.
It doesn’t and he isn’t.
He’s willing to play along with the outside expectations, to play them down, to play them up, whatever. It doesn’t really matter to him.
“To be honest, we were picked third in the West last year, I don’t think we’re picked third in the West this year,” he said.
But he’s fully aware of three things: 1) This is the best talent he’s ever had as coach of the Jazz; 2) There’s more talent spread around among the teams against whom the Jazz will be competing; 3) Neither of those first two things will concern him as much as initiating within his own guys the force necessary for them to become what they’re capable of being.
“I don’t know if we’re being hunted or we’re hunting,” he said. “I hope we get hunted a little bit because that gives you urgency. I hope we do some hunting, too.”
Ultimately, though, No. 3 is the key, and that’s exactly what Snyder has specialized in across previous seasons, getting as much out of the players he has, regardless of how limited some of them may be, and powering forward.
He knows he has more offensive firepower on this iteration of the Jazz, what with the additions of Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic and Jeff Green. And while he’s busy organizing that potential for scoring, mixing it with Donovan Mitchell’s, Rudy Gobert’s, Joe Ingles’ and Royce O’Neale’s, he’s also stressing what he’s always emphasized — defense, because he also knows that if the Jazz finish as a top-three defense and a top-10 offense, they might exceed anybody’s lofty expectations, including his own.
Either way, the Jazz’s attention is aimed inward, not outward.
“I think whatever the external perceptions are, however we process that, it’s important for our focus to be on maximizing who we are,” he said. “And that doesn’t mean we don’t have goals. Ideally, we have high goals and enthusiasm for those, but the way to get there is to kind of dig in.”
There’s no “kind of” about it.
And Snyder knows that, too.
He has neither the time nor the inclination to haul extra burdens.
That would only come later, over the long term, if the Jazz do not approach what they’re aiming to do — contend for a title.
But right now, as they work through the preseason, and before that, as Snyder worked up all sorts of basketball concoctions in preparation for whatever comes next, the artist goes on painting, the sculptor is carving, the author is writing, the racer is driving, the ditch digger is tossing dirt.
He’ll worry about extra pressure when and if it comes. Meantime, he’s gladly dialing in on maximizing whoever, whatever it is the Jazz are, with shovel in hand.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone, which is owned by the parent company that owns the Utah Jazz.