SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Donovan Mitchell says this is the biggest season in his five years with the Utah Jazz.
“I think after the performance we had last year in the regular season, the work we’ve put in and obviously coming up short,” Mitchell said at Jazz Media Day. “We weren’t as healthy as we wanted to be, but I think this is a big year for us as whole. We’re not going to sneak up on anybody.”
After securing the number one seed in the Western Conference and best overall record in the the NBA, the Jazz lost in the second round of the playoffs to the L.A. Clippers. But they feel they’ve learned from that experience, and want to take advantage of the window of opportunity in front of them.
“We really feel like we have an opportunity to do something special in the next few years,” said NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. “We know that we don’t get many of those windows in your career.”
“I feel like a lot of teams felt like they had the opportunity to do something special,” added point guard Mike Conley. “We felt like we were right there in that bucket. But how different things can be just like that.”
The biggest reason why the Jazz fell short was injuries. With Mitchell’s ankle and Conley’s hamstring, the Jazz were not healthy when it counted the most in the playoffs. But with their depth, the Jazz can afford to practice some load management this season.
“If you look at Donovan’s injury, I don’t know if there’s any way [to avoid it]” said head coach Quin Snyder. “Tell him to play without jumping? Mike didn’t play back-to-backs. So it’s something that we have been aware of. Some of it I think is luck.”
“That’s what makes our team a little different than a lot of teams,” Conley said. “You don’t necessarily need everybody every night.”
With the additions of Hassan Whiteside, Eric Paschall and Rudy Gay, the Jazz can go 10 or 11 deep.
“You want to be a part of something that’s great,” said Gay, a 15-year NBA veteran. “I think this is a great team. I think this could be one of the most talented teams I’ve played for. But we’ll see.”
“This is one of, if not the best organization I’ve been a part of,” Whiteside said. “And I’ve only been here three weeks.”
“I think we have the best bench in the league,” said forward Bojan Bogdanovic.
The team is 100 percent vaccinated, so there are no issues there as they travel around the country. The Jazz also want their fans to get vaccinated or tested too so they can go to all the games this season.
“I still think it’s a personal choice,” Gobert said. “No one should be pressured by doing it. But it’s cool that we have the whole group and everyone is making sure that we’re not making that a distraction for the team.”
“We’re going to rack up a lot of wins,” added NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson. “So do what you’ve got to do to get your Covid test or get your vaccine. Just be at the games because we’re going to put on a great show for everybody this year.”
The Jazz begin training camp in Las Vegas on Tuesday, and the team’s first preseason game is set for October 4th.