The NBA season is here again.
The Utah Jazz will hold media day Monday. Training camp and two-a-day practices begin on Tuesday. After a crazy summer with five trades and the head coach’s resignation — let alone the intense negotiations and speculation that surrounded every move — it doesn’t feel like there was much of a break from Jazz news at all, was there?
But now begins the path back up the mountaintop, one that the Jazz’s leadership believes will get them further than the first- and second-round exits that Quin Snyder’s teams experienced.
We’ll be covering every step of the way at The Salt Lake Tribune, reporting on the on-court action and the off-court machinations. We’ll also examine issues that fans really care about, like the new branding redesign, the Jazz’s TV situation, and the arriving All-Star Game.
First things first, though. Here’s what we’re watching for in training camp:
Who’s going to be on the team?
Right now, the Jazz have 18 guaranteed contracts. That’s too many. They’ve established a desire to trade veteran pieces away — will more trades occur before the season begins? If not, which of the Jazz’s players won’t make the cut? Even some of the Jazz’s minor-league deals are waiting on other decisions to be made, with camp deals to Cody Zeller, Micah Potter, and others not yet official.
How good are these guys, anyway?
They may not be established All-Stars, but who can be at least a quality starter? Lauri Markkanen excited NBA observers with his high-scoring, efficient games in the EuroBasket this summer. ... Will that hold up against NBA competition? Same with new signing Simone Fontecchio — what happens when he faces NBA athleticism? Can Walker Kessler or Ochai Agbaji contribute as rookies, given their college resumes? Has Jared Butler improved after his poor summer league? How about Udoka Azubuike? We’ll get our first look.
What kind of basketball will they play?
At the news conference announcing his hiring, head coach Will Hardy admitted that he hadn’t decided what kind of offensive system he wanted for his players — because he didn’t know which players he would have! Now that the Jazz have received a whopping 10 players in trades this offseason, what has he decided?
NBA rule changes that impact you
I had two meetings on Friday morning, both about NBA rule changes for this upcoming season. One was about changes to the NBA’s rules for players this season, and one was about changes to the NBA’s rules for media this season.
First, the on-court stuff. The league has created a new rule preventing take fouls in transition — sometimes called the Euro-foul. When a team fouls intentionally to stop a fast break, the other team will receive a free throw and the ball back. The goal is to dissuade teams from the transition fouls that prevent some of basketball’s most exciting plays: dunks and transition blocks. The Jazz under Snyder committed such fouls more than any other team, and that option won’t exist for Hardy and Co.
There’s also a change to the review system. Previously, when a foul was committed, then challenged, then changed to a no-call, the result would generally be a jump ball at the center circle. Now, if they can, referees will determine who possession would have gone to had the foul not occurred, and give the ball to that team.
This is a rare one — we’ll call it the blue-light special. When the league office reviews that a shot called a 3-pointer should have been a 2, or vice versa, a blue light will light up around the top of the scorer’s table, alerting teams to the fact there is an imminent score change coming.
Finally, some good news: NBA media has been allowed back into locker rooms before and after games this season. While it doesn’t seem like this matters much to you, I assure you it does. It gives us media folk the chance to talk to players and develop relationships with them; to speak one-on-one with them and learn their stories, their points of view — that wasn’t frequently possible in the pandemic-caused Zoom era.
That allows our writing to be more informative, more revealing, and more insightful. We’ll be working hard to follow through on that promise.
So, yes, the Jazz might not be as good this season.
But our coverage will, I predict, be better than ever.