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That was my first tweet of the day Wednesday morning. Jazz PR had sent out a group text to a bunch of local media types who regularly cover the team, letting us know to look for an email about a big announcement coming soon from Jazz owner Gail Miller.
About a minute after I read the email, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted the news that Miller is selling the team to Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith.
I had been in the process of putting this newsletter together, as I’m endeavoring to make the Weekly Run a bit more, well, weekly, even during the offseason. I had all this brilliantly witty stuff about the Rudy Gobert scenarios discussed in back-to-back weeks on ESPN’s “Lowe Post” podcast. Somehow, the sale of the team seemed more relevant in the moment, so I switched gears.
A few hours, one news conference, and many rewrites later, I paused for a couple minutes to make an appearance on the “Bill Riley Show” on ESPN 700. His first question to me: What was your first thought when you heard about the sale?
My first thought? “Holy [expletive].” After all, the Miller family was practically synonymous with the Jazz. And they placed the team’s ownership in a legacy trust just three years ago. It felt like one Miller or another would own the team forever, didn’t it?
My second thought, though: It’s really not that shocking, after all. Gail Miller is 77. Greg Miller already stepped away from his CEO role with the team several years ago. The pandemic has hit the LHM businesses hard, with layoffs in April and more staff reductions in May. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of interesting details to consider about Ryan Smith. For starters, he’s now a multi-billionaire after selling Qualtrics. He’s just 42 years old (which ties him with the Grizzlies’ Robert Pera for youngest in the league) and a lifelong fan of the Jazz. History has shown that new owners typically come in very aggressive and eager to take things to the next level.
So, this transfer at the top will be compelling to watch. The Jazz are still in Utah and remain a solid, competitive franchise because of the Miller family, and so basketball fans here owe them their thanks. And yet, this new era with Smith at the helm holds so much promise. Jazz fans should be excited.
You were promised podcasts with Rudy Gobert scenarios, and so …
I’ll skip the brilliantly witty stuff I had planned and just get straight to the details.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe, whose work as a basketball analyst I enjoy immensely, had his old Grantland boss, Bill Simmons (now of The Ringer), to discuss potential offseason moves and hypothetical trades. Around the 57:33 mark of this podcast, they get into what the Jazz could potentially get for Gobert should contract talks go sideways with the two-time DPOY. How would you like the No. 1 overall pick? (FWIW, Simmons says the Jazz have no chance to win anything the next few years, and that they’ve “hit a wall,” so, as always, take his hyperbolic absolutism with a grain of salt.)
A few days ago, Lowe had ESPN cap expert and former NBA front office guy Bobby Marks on, and at the 43:50 mark of this podcast, Gobert comes up. Marks proves a voice of reason in explaining that the supermax deal which the Frenchman is eligible for need not be quite as onerous as everyone envisions. Lowe concludes “the most likely outcome is that the two sides find a contract that works for them.” Non-supermax possibilities are then invoked.
If you can stomach one more ESPN podcast, my favorite surly-and-sarcastic Texan, Tim MacMahon, appeared on Wednesday’s edition of the Woj Pod, and at the 22:08 mark, they get into Ryan Smith buying the Jazz from the Millers. MacMahon’s analysis: “Ryan Smith, he’s the right guy for the Millers to pass the torch to. … I would expect him to come in there excited — new, fresh blood … [and] go all-in on chasing success on the court.”
Music I’m listening to right now
We’re all stressed out these days, right? Well, maybe you’re not, and if so, good on ya. As for me, one of my salvations right now is being able to throw on some music and forget about (expletive) for awhile. Lately, the tunes that have been dominating my eardrums have included:
• Tom Petty, Wildflowers & All the Rest: The just-released super-deluxe version has 54 tracks, including the original “Wildflowers” album from ’94, the excised tracks that had been planned for a double album (some of which wound up on 1995′s “She’s the One” soundtrack), demos and early versions of many of these songs, and also some live performances. I’m particularly partial to “Confusion Wheel,” “There Goes Angela (Dream Away),” and “Crawling Back to You.”
• Smith & Myers, Volume 1 and Volume 2: I know that Shinedown are not many people’s cup of tea, but I love ’em. Their singer (Brent Smith) and guitarist (Zach Myers) have teamed up over the years to put out acoustic albums that feature both originals as well as some eclectic-for-rock-guys covers. INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart,” the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” (really!) are some of the intriguing covers. Also digging the new original “New School Shiver.”
• The Struts, Strange Days: The British alt-pop/alt-rockers feature a lead singer in Luke Spiller who’s arguably the most bombastic frontman this side of Freddie Mercury. Their recorded-in-isolation effort features guest spots from Robbie Williams, Tom Morello, and Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott and Phil Collen. “All Dressed Up (With Nowhere to Go” is boppy fun, “Wild Child” has got a ripping riff, and their where-did-that-come-from? cover of KISS’s “Do You Love Me” just works.
• Zeal & Ardor, Wake of a Nation EP: Frontman Manuel Gagneux’s voice on their harder stuff is admittedly abrasive and an acquired taste. But this six-track, 17-minute rumination on being a Black man in America in the aftermath of George Floyd is powerful. Their music is a combo of Scandinavian black metal and Black spirituals. The opening two songs, “Vigil” and “Tuskegee” are about as sonically different as any back-to-back tracks can be, but each carries weight in its own unique way.
I’ll concede that I tend to default to tried-and-true artists whom I already know and love, and need to expand my horizons. So … who are you listening to? Send me some recommendations to get me out of my comfort zone (email me firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet at @tribjazz or @esotericwalden).
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