Young Jazz reach into the past in search of future
As Utah prepares to start a new era, the Jazz have reached back to their past.
The organization made a conscious decision to go with a youth movement and let four of their top five scorers find new NBA homes after narrowly missing the playoffs at 43-39.
Team leaders Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are gone and the spotlight is now centered on Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, who are entering their fourth season.
To set the tone for the rebuilding process, the Jazz welcomed back the influence of the best teams in franchise history. First, Utah hired former coach Jerry Sloan, who spent 23 seasons as head coach of the Jazz while leading them to two NBA Finals appearances, as a senior basketball adviser.
''He's such a great resource for me to go to with different concepts I am pondering. We have debates about what gives us the best chance to win. We talk about new school basketball versus old school basketball and what will help this group of guys be successful,'' Utah coach Ty Corbin said during the team's media day Monday.
Favors and center Enes Kanter have worked out with Karl Malone while Alec Burks and rookie Trey Burke - the probable starting backcourt - spent time in Spokane, Wash., over the summer picking the brain of John Stockton.
''It was unbelievable to work with a Hall of Famer like that. He taught us the game is as mental as it is physical,'' Burks said.
Burke added that he was like a sponge in the presence of one of the all-time greats.
''It was a true honor to learn from him and now as a point guard of the Jazz there is pressure that comes with that. John taught me to be patient and get my teammates involved. He said the better passer you become the better scorer you can be,'' Burke said.
Meanwhile, Malone flew to Salt Lake to practice with Favors and Kanter spent a long weekend with the Malone family in Louisiana.
''It's not just basketball with Karl. Just listening to him talk, you understand why he is a legend,'' Kanter said.
Favors also learned some secrets of the pick-and-roll, the play Stockton and Malone made famous.
''Karl also taught me how to be ready physically. Strength is a key and I want to be like Karl was, and still is. I have hit the weight room every year harder and harder and there aren't many in the league that can rival me now,'' Favors said.
General manager Dennis Lindsey said the rebuilding process started with the decision to trade Deron Williams in February 2011 and culminated this offseason as the Jazz lost many of their veterans.
''We decided to jump in the deep end of the youth movement and we're excited to do so,'' Lindsey said. ''We look forward to the journey.''
The leader of this new journey may be Hayward, who averaged 14.1 points last season.
''I'm only 23, still pretty young but leadership has no age and I'm ready. It's weird to think that five years ago I was in high school and three years ago I was in college and nobody knew who I was, but I accept the challenge,'' says Hayward, the somewhat reluctant face of the franchise.
''We are looking to Gordon to grow. The ball will be in his hands a little bit more, we'll be looking for him to make big plays for us and he's excited. It's his time now,'' Corbin said.