SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz open training camp on Tuesday, and with the core of last year’s roster coming back and fully healthy, many people expect the team to compete for a Western Conference title.
“It’s really hard to get the variety of offensive talent that we have, any market, small market, glamour market, big market, it’s just tough,” said Dennis Lindsey, Jazz Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.
The Jazz signed all-star guard Donovan Mitchell to a 5-year extension worth up to $195 million. They also re-signed Jordan Clarkson and brought back Derrick Favors to provide depth off the bench.
“By adding Derrick, we do think we added some positional versatility,” Lindsey said.
Getting the band together, as it were, was a priority, and Lindsey said that having the same guys back will be helpful, not only in players already knowing the system, but also on the health front.
“The continuity piece wasn’t just a basketball related decision,” Lindsey said. “There were some health performance pieces as well.”
After last year’s chaotic season, in which the team went 44-28 and lost in seven games to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the NBA playoffs in the bubble in Orlando, the team feels like it is prepared to handle whatever adversity comes its way this season.
“We’re all going to have to be very nimble, keeping guys safe and healthy,” added Jazz general manager Justin Zanik. “We’ll get an idea of the schedule, how travel is, how the pandemic affects us. So, being connected the familiarity with each other, I think it will allow us to adjust. No one in the NBA, other than a 3-month bubble, has ever gone through what we’re about to go through. So I feel good that we have a connected group and we’ll manage all those things as they come up. And inevitably, it’s going to come up in the middle of a pandemic and our guys will be ready for it.”
The Jazz still have some business to take care of this year, namely the signing of Rudy Gobert, who is in the final year of his contract, and is due for a supermax extension.
“We don’t comment on past, present or future negotiations,” said Lindsey. “But we love Rudy, and we would like Rudy to be here for the duration of his career.”
The Jazz improved during the off season, but so did a lot of other teams in the Western Conference. But Lindsey feels like Utah can compete with the top teams.
“As far as expectations go, water always finds its level,” he said. “The competition always tells us the truth. With that said, we’re very comfortable with the group that we’ve put together, and hopefully we’ll make a good account for ourselves.”
The Jazz season is expected to begin December 22nd, and the team will allow up to 1,500 fans in the lower bowl to watch home games in person.