After an ugly lockout postponed NBA games until Christmas last season, basketball fans are ready for some hoops on Halloween. The Utah Jazz open their season tonight against the Dallas Mavericks. On the spookiest night of the year, the Jazz are one scary team for opponents.
A new season means renewed hope that this could be “the year.” Jazz fans know all too well that their team has never won an NBA title, but rising stars and new faces have Utah in position to make some serious noise.
The Jazz added a trio of sharp-shooting guards this off-season to go with an already talented roster. Randy Foye, Mo Williams and Marvin Williams bring high expectations to a team that snuck into the playoffs as an eight-seed last season.
“At the end of the day … it’s about winning,” said forward Paul Millsap. “No matter who’s on the court and who’s in the game, the goal is to win games.”
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are all-stars, but most of the buzz this preseason was about the development of their backups — Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Favors continues to polish his low post moves to go with his world-class athleticism, but analysts say Kanter impressed the most. The 2nd year player from Turkey lost 51 pounds in the off-season, and coaches say this helps his quickness near the basket. Kanter also led the team in scoring in the pre-season, but he says that doesn’t mean he expects star treatment.
“It doesn’t matter if I play … 5 minutes or 35 minutes,” said Kanter. “Every minute that I’m on the court, I’m just gonna try to do my best.”
Head Coach Tyrone Corbin echoed Millsap and says success will be a team effort, but he did acknowledge that Favors and Kanter could put the Jazz over the top.
“There is no limit for those two guys,” said Corbin. “I think that they have a lot of room to grow. They’re two really young guys that (will) continue to get better as they understand their body and where their place is in this league.”
After tonight’s game against the Mavs, the Jazz travel to New Orleans, San Antonio and Memphis for three straight road games. They return again to Salt Lake next Wednesday for a showdown with the rival Los Angeles Lakers.