There’s so much nervous anticipation about this Jazz season. It’s natural; with so many new faces on the roster this year, there’s just so much yet we can’t possibly know — no matter what we think we learned over the course of five preseason games.
Thing is, as much as there’s curiosity about the unknown, as much as there’s genuine enthusiasm to embrace all the newbies, there’s a flip side to that coin.
Those new guys are here because they replaced some other guys — some of whom Jazz fans came to love and embrace during their time here.
Such change is inevitable, and in some cases even necessary, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t tangible pangs of nostalgia at seeing new Milwaukee Bucks wing Kyle Korver chat up the Jazz bench during a break in the action of their preseason game. And there were certainly more than a few people whose eyes were suddenly, inexplicably stricken by dust or allergies or whatever when the follow-up trip to New Orleans yielded the ever-so-bizarre sight of Derrick Favors donning a No. 22 Pelicans uniform.
So if you’re the type of fan who has all the feels, you’d maybe better invest in some industrial-size boxes of tissues for watching games this year (or at least the travel-size packs if you’re coming to Vivint Arena).
There will certainly be plenty of occasions to use them this season.
Utah’s fourth game of the regular season, on Oct. 28, will see them travel to Phoenix to face their former point guard, Ricky Rubio. Korver returns to SLC with the Bucks on Nov. 8. A trip to Memphis exactly a week later will see them reunited with new Grizzlies Jae Crowder and Grayson Allen. And on Nov. 23 — one month into the new campaign — Favors, the longtime Jazzman, will be the recipient of quite the ovation when he makes his return to the Viv.
In case you’ve been too obsessed with all the goings-on of the new-look Jazz to keep up with the exploits of those who are gone but not forgotten, here’s a brief at how those now-former Jazz players are fitting in with their new teams.
Rudy Gobert’s frontcourt complement is now manning the middle for the Pelicans, and proving the veteran voice of experience for a squad stocked with a bunch of young talent, such as Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram. He’ll also be serving as a mentor to lottery-pick big man Jaxson Hayes, whom the Pellies procured in one of their follow-up deals to the big Anthony Davis trade.
In the preseason, the man who gave us always-entertaining but too-infrequent “dead-ass serious” 3-pointers has had limited production in limited playing time — averaging just 3.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks in 14.8 minutes per game. Fav will surely see the court more in the regular season, though how much more is a good question, considering he is not necessarily a great fit with their promise to fast-break at every opportunity.
Though most Jazz fans will concede that logically (and statistically) it made all the sense in the world to bring in Mike Conley to man the point, that doesn’t mean it was easy to say goodbye to The Spanish Samurai, Tricky Ricky. While Rubio was considered a competent floor general and a plus defender, he truly endeared himself to the fanbase in Utah with heart-on-his-sleeve loyalty and his charitable efforts in the community. Not to mention, that infamous “cat guy” commercial with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. (Meow!)
In Phoenix, he’s being called upon to bring veteran savvy to another young group, and to ease playmaking responsibilities for young guard Devin Booker. Thus far, he’s averaged 7.3 points, 5.7 assists, and 3.0 rebounds in 22 minutes per game. While he’s been lauded for his defense and leadership, his career-long shooting issues remain, well, a big issue — 36.0% overall, and 12.5% from deep.
In spite of some obvious holes in his game (namely, little hesitation in firing up 3-pointers, despite a decided lack of success in hitting them), “Bossman” was a popular Jazz player, largely owing to his “enforcer” proclivities. Any extracurriculars that saw a Jazz player challenged by an opponent were sure to see Crowder insinuate himself.
Given the Grizzlies’ teardown and rebuild, it will be interesting to see how long Crowder remains. For now, anyway, he’s been productive in the minutes he’s received, averaging 12.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in 24.3 minutes. While his overall shooting remains inefficient (42.3%), his small sample size of deep-ball attempts would seem to indicate some at least momentary progress (42.1%).
After initially being sent to Memphis as part of the Conley trade, the veteran sharpshooter reached a buyout with the Grizzlies and signed with the Bucks, in pursuit of a potential championship. As part of a deep rotation in Milwaukee, he should be able to avoid overuse and perhaps manage to escape the injuries that limited his effectiveness down the stretch last season with the Jazz.
Utah, meanwhile, saw firsthand that he can still hit 3s in a hurry, as he buried a trio of deep balls against the Jazz in their preseason shootout. Overall this preseason, he is averaging 6.3 points and 2.5 assists, while shooting a mind-boggling 69.2% from the field and 77.8% from deep.
The Grizzlies were apparently sufficiently intrigued by the Duke product’s surge to close out his rookie campaign that they demanded his inclusion in the Conley deal. And they’ve certainly been taking a long look at just how much of an asset he may be this preseason.
Allen has played 23.5 minutes per game for Memphis, and has been productive in that time, averaging 12.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists. He’s also been shooting efficiently — 47.1% overall and 35.3% from deep. The ultimate question, of course, is whether he has figured out the defensive issues that prompted the Jazz coaching staff to so frequently deploy him to the G League for additional training.