SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – From 1974 in New Orleans, to 2023 in Salt Lake City, the Jazz have come a long way, as they get ready to tip off their 50th season Wednesday night at the newly renamed Delta Center.
Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Jazz CEO Danny Ainge sat down with the media on the eve of the opener against Sacramento.
“I mean it’s a milestone, and I think it’s a great one,” said Smith. We got the Delta Center coming back, there’s alot of things that are lining up. It’s cool to see the community rally and that’s really what sports, and specifically basketball is about. It’s supposed to bring people together.”
The Jazz ended a six-year playoff streak last season, as they traded away big assets like Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert last summer. But this team has the talent to get back to the postseason.
“As I sat here last year, I would say that my expectations weren’t super high, and I would say that our team exceeded expectations last year,” said Ainge. “But we want to make the playoffs, that’s everybody’s goals, and we’re going to set out to do that.”
Last year, Mike Conley was the unquestioned leader on the team before he got traded in February. This year the quiet All-Star Lauri Markkanen is expected to assume that role.
“I think Lauri has really stepped up,” Ainge said. “I think he just has so much swagger and confidence in who he is, and I think that he sees himself as the best player on our team.”
As for the biggest off-season acquisition John Collins, he is slowly integrating himself into the Jazz system.
“I think John is a guy that can score,” Ainge said. “I mean, he set 20-point seasons in the NBA. He can rebound, he’s athletic. He started out slow as he tried to figure out our system, our players, our coach, but he’s been playing really well lately, and we’re expecting big things out of John.”
There was talk the Jazz were after big names like Damian Lillard and Jrue Holiday this summer. Will they pursue a big trade this year? The NBA has realized to never underestimate ‘Trader Danny.’
“We were in conversations and will continue to be in conversations,” Ainge said. “We talk all the time when players like hat become available, and when is the right time, and how much better will that player make us.”
While all Jazz fans want to see the team play well, they don’t all agree on how they look. The Jazz jersey debate will rage on all season.
“I love the passion around jerseys, but we have six jerseys this year,” said Smith, adding the black and yellow one is the best seller. “We’re going to have that many jerseys next year. There’s always going to be a jersey you don’t like. That’s just the business we’re in. Hopefully there’s a jersey you do like.”
Utah and Sacramento tip off the 2023-24 season Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m.