The Utah Jazz made sweeping changes to the team in the offseason and they started at the top.
In June, the Jazz hired Quin Snyder to become the eighth coach in franchise history, replacing Tyrone Corbin, who was let go after Utah finished 25-57 last season.
Snyder, coming off a year as an assistant in Atlanta, has never been a head coach at the NBA level, although as head coach at Missouri from 1999 to 2006 he led the Tigers to four NCAA tournament appearances.
Already he’s getting rave reviews from his players.
“Especially for a young team like us, we need somebody to tell us, ‘This is how it’s supposed to be. If you don’t know it, I’m going to teach it to you,'” Gordon Hayward said at the team’s media day. “Because we’re so young and so inexperienced we don’t know what it takes to win.”
Snyder has joined lots of new faces in Salt Lake: The Jazz had 10 new players in training camp this year. Among them were Steve Novak, acquired from Toronto in exchange for guard Diante Garrett, and promising Australian guard Dante Exum, selected with the fifth overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
Gone are forwards Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson, as well as center Andris Biedrins.
The Jazz made a point of keeping Hayward, matching the four-year, $63 million contract that Charlotte had bid for him. Hayward averaged career highs of 16.2 points, 5.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals last season while leading the Jazz in scoring and minutes. He was the first Jazz player to average 16 points, five rebounds and five assists since Pete Maravich.
He’s looking forward to this season under Snyder:
“Extremely excited. The spacing that he has put in. The fact that he’s trying to get people to be passers first. That he wants us to play with pace. Extremely excited for a guy like me who’s best in the open court,” Hayward said.
Also look for more responsibility to fall to Trey Burke, who averaged 12.8 points and 5.7 assists last season as a rookie, and Derrick Favors, who had career highs with an average of 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds last season. Favors is a five-year veteran even though he’s just 23.
Here are a few other things to consider as the Jazz embark on their season of change:
YOUTH MOVEMENT: Thirteen players on the training camp roster are under 25. The oldest is camp invitee Dahntay Jones at 33, and Novak is second at 31. Exum is just 19. The average age of Utah’s projected starting lineup is 22.6 years.
KANTER’S STATUS: Enes Kanter is in a contract season and the Jazz have been negotiating an extension with him over the course of training camp. If the deal isn’t sealed by the Oct. 31 deadline, the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft will wait until this season’s over and head into restricted free agency.
HAYWARD BOASTS: During camp, Hayward sent out a rather provocative post on Twitter: “If I played @KingJames 1-on-1, I’d crush him. My new blog on why I’m the best in the game.” The tweet included a link. As it turns out, Hayward was boasting he’d crush LeBron James at the League of Legends video game. Needless to say, Hayward’s blog crashed from all the people who clicked.
FELIX HURT: Jazz forward/guard Carrick Felix injured his left shoulder on the opening day of training camp. X-rays revealed it was only a sprain and he should be back for the opener, if not sooner. Felix, a second-year player out of Arizona State, was acquired in a trade with Cleveland in July. He appeared in seven games with the Cavaliers last season, averaging 2.7 points, but also played for the Cavaliers’ D-league team, the Canton Charge.
WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION: “I got a Tesla,” Hayward said. More specifically, a P85 Model S Tesla. “It’s the most fun thing I’ve ever driven,” he added. “It’s a practical thing. It’s the number one rated car on Consumer Reports ever. … You can pay less money if you charge it at 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.”