When the air gets colder, the days get a little shorter, and media day arrives, NBA fans know that the season is just around the corner. Walking into the Zions Bank Basketball Center Monday morning, I felt a buzz in the air, an unmistakable excitement for the upcoming string of 82 Jazz basketball games.
The first thing I noticed when media day got underway was the atmosphere around the team officials and players – everyone was excited. From general manager Dennis Lindsey, to undrafted rookie Ian Clark, to senior vice president of basketball operations Kevin O’Connor, the talk was of the huge potential this current Utah team possesses.
“The vibe in the community is contagious,” Steve Miller, president of Miller Sports Properties, said on Monday. “We just finished our team meeting, there was a great vibe in the room.”
Jazz president Randy Rigby agreed with Miller, adding his thoughts.
“I think the commitment from the organization is at an all time high, with the excitement of getting ready for this upcoming season,” Rigby said.
Lindsey was excited for the future as well, and was eager to talk about the goals he has from a general manager’s point of view for the Jazz this season.
“We want to develop a defensive foundation. We took a hard look at ourselves, and we think some of the moves to allow the young guys to play more will allow us to eventually be championship caliber. The number one goal is to build a championship caliber defense, then it’s to develop the players we have,” Lindsey said.
Head coach Tyrone Corbin stated goals very similar to the ones Lindsey expressed, showing just how cohesive this current Jazz team is, both in the front office and the coaching staff. When asked what his expectations are for this team, Corbin said, “For us to compete every night we step out there on the floor.”
One thing I’ve been curious about this offseason was what direction Corbin intends to take the team offensively. With the departure of former starter Al Jefferson to the Charlotte Bobcats, Utah lost an integral part of their offense from these past few years. Fans have become accustomed to seeing an offense run through the left block, all predicated on the decisions Jefferson would make in the post.
“Obviously there will be some tweaks, the personality is different. What those changes are, we’ll see as we go forward here. Naturally, you’ll change some things, some things we like we’ll keep. Where you don’t have a guy in Al Jefferson to go down to in the post, we’re going to have to change some of those things,” Corbin said, when I asked him about changes to the offense this upcoming season.
Different plays and a new offensive philosophy aren’t the only things that are going to affect how many points the Jazz score on a given night, however – Salt Lake City is also seeing its fair share of new faces this year. NCAA Player of the Year Trey Burke, Rudy Gobert, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, Ian Clark, and John Lucas III are all new to Utah this season.
“I like it here, I like the weather, and I’ll finally be able to enjoy the snow!” said Biedrins, when I asked him how Salt Lake City was treating him so far.
Lucas had some more to add to Biedrins’ comments, however. “Everyone here is so friendly, just helping me get around the city, I figured out the city’s more like a grid now, so I’m learning the city pretty easily, but everywhere I go everybody’s pretty friendly,” Lucas said.
The returning players on this Jazz squad are excited as well. Enes Kanter was his usual boisterous self, and told quite a few great stories about his experiences working out with big man coach Karl Malone this summer.
“It was so much fun. It’s just not about basketball, I had so much fun with him. Even when I first met him, when you just hear him talk, you understand why he was a legend,” Kanter said. “His wife was really nice to me as well, she’s a great cook by the way.”
After interviewing all the players, talking to the coaching staff and front office guys, and just taking in the exciting feeling there at the Zions Bank Basketball Center, it’s safe to say that the 2013-14 season is going to be a fun one for fans.
Now, obviously, the Jazz aren’t title-chasing this year. “We’re just at the beginning stages of a rebuild,” Lindsey said during his time with the media. “Certainly we’d like to blink an eye and be championship competitive, but we’re not there yet. We won’t skip the steps and run from the work to get us to where we want to be.”
Lindsey’s comments should excite each and every Jazz fan. I want to draw attention to my favorite part of that quote, where Lindsey says the team won’t skip the steps to becoming a championship team. In today’s NBA, with the success of teams studded with superstars, some clubs overlook the fact that in order to create a winning environment, you first have to go through some tough losing seasons. The Oklahoma City Thunder are well acquainted with this theory, and they’re currently one of the most successful teams in the NBA.
One of the best parts of this rapidly approaching season will be watching a young group of guys learn and grow in the NBA together. Hopefully, in a few years, Utah can become as competitive as the Thunder, and other top-tier teams in the Western Conference. So Jazz fans should be excited for this season – excited to watch Burke and Favors run a pick and roll, to watch Kanter put to use his tips from Malone, and to see if maybe Clark can become as successful a rotation player as previous undrafted rookie Wesley Matthews was for Utah. Get ready, Jazz fans – the season is coming.