New Jazz coach and draft picks give fans hope for upcoming season

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The Utah Jazz showed off their newly acquired draft picks and coach at an open practice and scrimmage in front of 9,000 fans at Energy Solutions Arena Thursday night.

New Jazz coach Quin Snyder addressed the crowd before the team took the practice floor. He expressed his excitement to be in Salt Lake City and for the opportunity to coach the Jazz.

“It’s been terrific being in Salt Lake,” Snyder said. “I have been able to get out in the community a bit. I hope the greetings are as warm and friendly mid-season as they are now.”

Jazz rookies Dante Exum and Rodney Hood talk after a timeout during their scrimmage at Energy Solutions Arena Thursday night. (Kyle Strait)
Jazz rookies Dante Exum and Rodney Hood talk after a timeout during their scrimmage at Energy Solutions Arena Thursday night. (Kyle Strait)

Jazz fans were excited to see Snyder, giving him a standing ovation when he appeared for the first time. Jazz fans were also anxious to see the new draft picks Dante Exum and Rodney Hood for the first time.

As the line wrapped around the arena, some Jazz fans waited in line for two hours. Stephanie Pierce, a lifelong Jazz fan from Sandy, was among them.

“The upcoming season should be a promising one. We have a new coach and two great rookies from the draft,” Pierce said. “It will be exciting to see these new changes come together so we can hopefully get back in the playoffs this year.”

One change Jazz fans might expect to see is Snyder playing a dual point guard lineup with second-year point guard Trey Burke and Exum, the Jazz’s fifth overall pick. Snyder expects the Jazz to push the ball hard with both Burke and Exum in the game. He said they want to have multiple players who can quickly bring the ball up court and believes this will be an effective advantage. Snyder wants the Jazz to play fast and move the ball unselfishly.

“Exum is a player capable of pushing the ball up quickly; so is Trey. So we are going to have the strong side post empty as we come down the floor in transition,” Snyder said. “What that allows us to do is for our perimeter players who can handle the ball to attack the rim often.”

The Jazz played with a fast pace during the scrimmage. Both Exum and Burke pushed the ball and were able to break down the defense for easy shots. If a shot was contested they were able to pass to a cutting Hood or Rudy Gobert for easy baskets.

Exum finished the game with five assists and four steals. He also forced several bad shots with his long arms and solid shot defense. The hard defense Snyder and the coaching staff teach showed up in the scrimmage.

“Our defense, especially our pick and roll defense, has been a huge point of emphasis. I was happy with how our guys communicated and how they worked on that tonight,” Snyder said.  He also said there are some non-negotiables on defense. If someone is not playing sound defense they will come out of the game. He will hold the Jazz accountable for their defense so they can rely on one another.

“When you’re playing defense and maybe you get beat or something happens, to know that your teammate has your back is important,” Snyder said.

Jazz rookie Rodney Hood looks to inbound the ball during practice at the Energy Solutions Arena Thursday night. (Kyle Strait)
Jazz rookie Rodney Hood looks to inbound the ball during practice at the Energy Solutions Arena Thursday night. (Kyle Strait)

Hood, the Jazz 21st overall pick, showed his upside during the scrimmage, shooting seven for nine from the field and two for three from behind the arc. He was the top scorer during the scrimmage, with 16 points. Snyder knows he is a dangerous scorer. The Jazz will look to utilize his ability to score in many different ways.

“The other day in practice, Rodney, I thought, passed up several shots, and I asked him, ‘Can you shoot?’ He nodded his head yes,” Snyder said. “We know he can put the ball in the basket, and we don’t want him to defer. He is also a terrific finisher at the rim.”

Hood, who shot 42 percent from three last season with Duke, looks to improve the Jazz’s fifth worst 34 percent three-point average. Hood also averaged 16 points per game for Duke.

Self-proclaimed Jazz super fan Teddy White, from Springville, was at the scrimmage already wearing a Hood jersey.

“Rodney Hood was a great pick; he didn’t get as much attention because he played with Jabari Parker,” White said. “But he is a tremendous player with a large skill set, and I think he is going to add a lot to the team this year.”

Snyder, excited to work with the youngest team in the NBA, is confident his young, but experienced coaching staff will be able to get the most out of their young players. His goal is to establish a winning culture in Utah once again.

The Jazz travel to Las Vegas for summer league play, starting with a game against the 76ers Saturday night at 8:30.

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