The Weekly Run is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly newsletter covering the Utah Jazz. Subscribe here.
The Clippers’ Doc Rivers has a reputation around the league for being one of the most accessible and media-friendly coaches around. You ask him a question — pretty much any question — and he’ll answer it.
So at Wednesday morning’s Clippers shootaround at Vivint Smart Home Arena, I took the opportunity to ask him if he was surprised that the Jazz’s defense remained so good this season despite them having to incorporate so many new players.
The first line of his response pretty much said it all.
“Don’t they have that big guy back there?” he asked with a wink.
Indeed, the big guy — known to you and I as Rudy Gobert — remains a fixture.
Rivers went on to explain that there’s no real secret to it, that so long as the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is on the court, the Jazz are going to have success stopping other teams from scoring.
“He’s like a goaltender in hockey. He just sits back there, and when everybody else plays well, then they’re extraordinarily a great defensive team. When everyone else plays bad, they’re still a really good defensive team, ’cause the goaltender’s still there,” Rivers said. “But they brought in good pieces, too — guys who do compete and play hard. So I’m not the surprised, no.”
In case you missed it
If you’re one of the few people who haven’t yet read Gordon Monson’s column wondering just how good these Jazz can be, get on it! Meanwhile, on Thursday, I wrote about Mike Conley’s teammates having a feeling he was going to break out against the Clippers, as well as the Salt Lake City Stars’ media day, in which a couple of two-way players espoused excited about the learning process to come.
With Rudy manning the middle, the Jazz wound up holding the Clippers to 96 points on Wednesday night. And with Conley finally looking like Conley, the Jazz scored 110 themselves in the victory. Another major component of the game was Rivers’ decision to sit star forward Kawhi Leonard for load management — which became a hot topic among the two teams, as Julie Jag wrote about. Meanwhile, Andy B. Larsen’s latest Triple Team focused on Conley’s offense, the Jazz’s defense, and Royce O’Neale’s zero shots.
In between the Suns and Clippers games, Andy and I recorded a new episode of the Weekly Run podcast, in which we discussed everything from Conley’s struggles to Bojan Bogdanovic’s success.
Speaking of that aforementioned Suns game, here is Andy’s recap of Utah’s one-point win, plus an update on former Jazzman and current Sun Ricky Rubio, plus Andy’s patented Triple Team.
Beyond that, I wrote the jinxiest story that ever jinxed. After Conley had a perfectly respectable game against the Kings, I produced a finely-crafted thinkpiece about the signs of progress he was showing. (And you’ll remember he followed that up with a game in which he shot 0 for 7, scored one point, and committed five fouls in 10 minutes. So, yeah.)
Other people’s stuff …
• ESPN’s Tim MacMahon did an interesting feature on how the Jazz are attempting to become just the third team ever to reach the conference finals featuring a roster that didn’t have an All-Star prior to that season.
• Meanwhile, former Jazz beat writer-turned-ESPN midwest region reporter Eric Woodyard spoke to Jazz legend Karl Malone, who noted that “It’s about damn time” that Salt Lake City is hosting another NBA All-Star Game.
• Shams Charania of The Athletic had an interesting conversation with Donovan Mitchell, in which the star guard admitted that acclimating to being a star was a totally new experience for him: “I never came into a season with an X on my back. Not in high school, not in college. I had never been the guy before. That was one thing for me to learn.”
• After all the controversy about whether the clock was stopped in time after the Phoenix foul in their loss to the Jazz, Jasen Lee of the Deseret News went to the NBA’s Last 2 Minutes Report for the explanation on why the league ruled the refs got it right.
The Jazz head to California this weekend for their next couple games, with their rematch vs. the Kings taking place this Friday in Sacramento, and the second go-round against the Clippers happening Sunday in Los Angeles. After that, next Wednesday against in Salt Lake City, they’ll face Jazz fans’ favorite opponent — Ben Simmons and the 76ers!