Utah Jazz gear up as preseason begins

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Trey Burke, Tony Parker
Trey Burke dribbles past Tony Parker. The Utah Jazz opened up preseason against the L.A. Lakers on Sunday, Oct. 4. (Associated Press)

Discipline, disruption. That’s Utah Jazz head coach’s motto for the 2015-2016 season.

Head coach Quin Snyder wants his defense to be more disciplined this year to get in the way of their opponent’s attack. Now in his second season as head coach, he is ready to build on last year’s experiences as the team finished 38-44 overall and have started the 2015-2016 preseason 2-0.

“(I feel) less anxiety about the unknown and more work about trying to figure out how to help your team improve and play to your strengths,” Snyder said at Utah Jazz Media Day 2015.

Snyder said a lot of players have been working out together and improving in the off-season to strengthen the team.

“There won’t be surprises as far as some of the (player) development goes,” Snyder said. “How it all integrates and how they combine, the things they’ve been working on.”

Guard Dante Exum tore his ACL playing for the Australian national team in August, leaving the Jazz with a void to fill. The Jazz could rotate Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and Joe Engles playing together at different times.

“I think it could work,” Burks said. “We’re all very versatile, can handle the ball, can pass.”

Snyder said they need to find a way to get the best players on the floor and use them in the right way to solve the guard situation. He also wants to see more aggression towards the basket, reducing mistakes on offense.

“Saying ‘don’t turn it over’ isn’t enough,” Snyder said. “No one wants to turn the ball over and so you try to figure out how can we play that will help us be more efficient and not do that. And I think force is a big part of it, screening, cutting, kind of old-school, grind it out. It’s who we are.

Gordon Hayward left the 2014-2015 season wanting focus on becoming a better decision maker. He said he wants to be someone the team can go to and count on to close games.

“It’s something Quin (Snyder) and I have talked about,” Hayward said. “And I think the next step is being a consistent closer.”

Regular season begins with an away game on Oct. 30 against the Philadelphia 76ers and will continue through mid-April.

Player round-up and injury update

Hayward and his wife, Robyn, welcomed baby Bernadette “Bernie” in the early summer. Hayward led the team in 2014-2015 with an average of 19.3 points per game and a 3-point percentage of 36.4. He also had a 81.2 free throw percentage and average of 1.4 steals per game.

Frenchman Rudy Gobert spent the summer playing for his national team in the EuroBasket as they walked away with the bronze medal. Gobert led the Jazz in rebounds with 9.5 per game and made 60.4 percent of attempted field goals in the 2014-2015 season. He had 2.3 blocks per game.

Veteran Favors is also a new father and welcomed twins in the off-season. He will be back playing in his natural position of power forward. Favors averaged 16 points and 8.2 rebounds in the 2014-2015 season.

Trey Burke, now in in his third NBA season, heavily contends for the guard position. He had 4.3 assists per game in the 2014-2015 season.

Shooting guard Burks missed most of last season after a left shoulder injury. He is healthy now and has been increasing his shooting range, particularly in three-point shots.

Second-year Hood will also be competing for playing time in the shooting guard role. He averaged 8.7 points per game and 2.3 rebounds per game last season.

Forward Trevor Booker received a nasal fracture over the summer while playing in a pickup basketball game, requiring minor surgery. He is back for training camp and will be entering his sixth NBA season.

It is unknown when Exum will return to play after tearing his ACL in August, according to injury reports.

The Jazz will be looking to the bench for performances from Elijah Millsap, second-year Engles, and Booker.

The Jazz acquired forwards Trey Lyles and J.J. O’Brien as well as Neto this summer in the 2015 NBA Draft. Center Jeff Whitey was traded from the New Orleans Pelicans.

NBA policy changes

The NBA announced in a press release at the beginning of September announcing the playoff seeding process and tiebreaker policies would change, effective 2015-2016:

  • The eight playoff teams in each conference will be seeded in order of their regular-season record
    • Division winners will no longer receive a guaranteed top four playoff seed
  • 1st Tiebreaker: head-to-head record
  • 2nd Tiebreaker: standing within division

Preseason recap

Preseason for the Utah Jazz began with two wins over the L.A. Lakers at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Jazz first beat the L.A. Lakers on Sunday, Oct. 4 with a score of 90-71. Derrick Favors had 16 points and nine rebounds while Raul Neto had six assists. Laker guard Kobe Bryant had only five points in the game.

Two days later on Tuesday, Oct. 6 the Jazz came out victorious again, beating the Lakers 117-114. Alec Burks led the way with 27 points and six assists while Trey Lyles had eight rebounds. Bryant scored 13 points in 21 minutes of play.

The Jazz will continue preseason play on Friday, Oct. 9 against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena at 8 p.m. MDT. The game will be broadcast on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM.

If the Jazz can stick to Snyder’s “discipline, disruption” motto and finish in the top eight of the Western Conference, they’ll be able to make the playoffs this year.

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