SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – After a month-long training camp, the Utah Jazz cannot wait to play a real game, as they tip off the 2023-24 season tonight against Sacramento.
“I’m itching, just like [the players] are,” said head coach Will Hardy. “I’ve been itching just to get this started. I think we’re all just ready to get in front of our fan base and play a real game. We’re all competitors, and everybody is ready to play.”
“I think it’s more excitement for another year,” said guard Jordan Clarkson. “Another experience and another 82.”
Now in his second season as head coach, Hardy feels more comfortable, but there will definitely be some nerves.
“I think the familiarity with our team is something I feel much better about than I did this time last year,” Hardy said. “But I have nerves like anybody. That’s sort of what drives me, and I know that little bit of doubt keeps me working.”
The Jazz missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years last season, and no longer has an established floor leader like Mike Conley. But veterans like All-Star Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson can assume that role.
“I don’t think there are too many playoff games between our guys,” Clarkson said. “So, in terms of experience, we’ve got to be more vocal in terms of communicating and bring guys along.”
“I think it’s been more open once we got that year under our belt,” Markkanen said. “We know each other now, so that definitely helps. We can be more open and really talk about everything.”
There are 10 to 12 guys vying for playing time. The guard line is especially crowded, so rotations may be fluctuating early in the season.
“Now we have a lot of young guys who are in the mix trying to figure out positions and roles,” said veteran forward Kelly Olynyk. “But we also have a couple older guys who know what they have to do.”
“Everybody just brings something different,” Clarkson added. “You’re going to see a lot of combinations throughout the game, running plays and getting us organized.”
As the longest tenured player on the team, Clarkson knows the Jazz fans will be fired up for the opener.
“It’s going to be super loud,” he said. “They always bring the energy, and they’re ready to go to war with us. So we’re going to go out there and try to represent the city and get a win.”
The Jazz and Sacramento will tip off the season Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m.