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There was a sense of anticipation Wednesday morning at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus, as the Jazz went through shootaround a few hours ahead of their regular-season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After all the talk, the team is ready to get out there and see how they actually look in a game that matters.
“It’s hard to gauge everything that you see in practice until you start playing games, whether it’s preseason games or, obviously the regular season. First and foremost, we’ll get a chance to see where we are,” said coach Quin Snyder. “… It’s gotta be about the process of how we’re coming together. Also, what’s our level today?”
While opening nights are now old hat for veteran point guard Mike Conley, even he couldn’t deny that the circumstances will make this one a bit unique and special.
“This is new — it’s all new for me. It’s my 13th year, but my first year outside of Memphis, so a whole new environment, new fans, new team. I’m just excited to get going,” he said.
He offered that the week of practices between the preseason finale and tonight’s opener were devoted pretty much exclusively to defensive improvement, noting, “I don’t think we took any shots.” He expects that as all the new players become increasingly familiar with both the concepts and each other, progress will come.
That’s what Snyder will be on the lookout for, as well, to determine how to proceed.
“There’s a lot of analysis, and we don’t want to overreact to a result, but also, there’s nothing that you ignore,” Snyder said. “You go with the plan, and then you figure out when to implement and what to implement. If I see 10 things I’d like us to do better, we’re not gonna fix 10 things in just a few days.”
In case you missed it
First off, the important stuff: The Jazz will be making a “major” announcement Wednesday at 3:30. Owner Gail Miller will be joined by CEO Steve Starks, Gov. Gary Herbert, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver. All signs point to Utah being awarded the 2023 NBA All-Star Game.
Beyond that interesting tidbit, there’s been plenty of coverage leading up to Wednesday’s season opener vs. the Thunder. For what it’s worth, the team seemed pretty at ease in Tuesday’s final practice. There’s been no shortage of other news, either: Donovan Mitchell, among others, losing some height in the new official measurements; the renewal of the 5 for the Fight jersey patch sponsorship, and Joe Ingles getting a contract extension; and Quin Snyder getting a multiyear contract extension, too. Quin also gave a great interview explaining why the offense is so far ahead of the defense right now.
Finally, we produced a special section in advance of the season. Among its contents: Asking if, in fact, the Jazz can compete for an NBA title; a player-by-player breakdown of the roster; a look at goings-on of the players who did not return from last season; a profile of general manager Justin Zanik by new Trib sports writer Julie Jag; a column from Gordon Monson examining the likelihood of the team’s championship aspirations; a look at 10 key games on the schedule; an examination of the new backcourt pairing of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley; and a set of predictions about the best and worst of the coming season.
Other people’s stuff
• John Hollinger of The Athletic (and formerly of the MemphisGrizzlies’ front office) picks Jazz point guard Mike Conley as the “captain” of his “2019-20 NBA All-Breakout Team.”
• Also from The Athletic, Tony Jones takes a look at Donovan Mitchell and asks if the third-year guard can make the leap to superstardom this coming season.
• Jasen Lee of the Deseret News did a nice profile of reserve forward Georges Niang, and his journey from “overweight” freshman at Iowa State to rotation piece on an NBA team.
• Ryan Miller of KSL went behind the scenes of the latest Vivint Smart Home television ad featuring Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
• Aaron Falk of utahjazz.com talked to several team members about the lackluster defensive showing from the preseason. The consensus? Not too worried.
The regular season begins tonight at Vivint Smart Home Arena against the Thunder. On Friday, the Jazz will their first road game of the season, heading out to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers. That game marks the front end of a back-to-back. The latter part comes Saturday in SLC against the Sacramento Kings. Then, on Monday, they’re on the road again, taking on Ricky Rubio and the Phoenix Suns.