SALT LAKE CITY — NBA action in Salt Lake City starts tonight as the Utah Jazz host former Jazzman Paul Millsap and the Denver Nuggets. The Jazz lost both of their leading scorers during the off-season and so many pundits wonder if the squad will have enough offensive punch to have another post season appearance.
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder still sounds a lot like he did just a few months ago during the team’s run through the playoffs.
“Being aggressive and unselfish is a good thing, but we also have to be efficient,” says Snyder. “And then just continued emphasis defensively.”
The Jazz lost their lone all-star, Gordon Hayward, who is donning the leprechaun green for the Boston Celtics. The second leading scorer, George Hill, is now mentoring young players for the Sacramento Kings. The Jazz’s new point guard Ricky Rubio does not think the team has changed at all.
“Our defense is going to take us as far as we want,” says Rubio. He also is not worried about scoring baskets.
“We want to run a little bit more, we’ve got guy athletic enough who can run,” he added.
Many NBA pundits and analysts don’t think the team can make up the loss of offensive production from the Hayward departure. USA Today, for example, predicted the Jazz to win 9 fewer games and barely make it to the playoffs. So do the Jazz have something to prove?
“I think that’s a narrative that’s being pounded,” says Snyder. “I don’t think our guys are trying to prove anything that they can be or not be without Gordon.”
The head coach says they need time to gel and make the adjustments needed just like any other NBA squad trying to fit in new players.
“We have the same chemistry evolution and challenges Oklahoma City does in adding Paul George,” says Snyder.
Except George is an All-Star and the Northwest Division has added other All-Stars like former Jazzman Paul Millsap. Snyder says everyone knows they are not favored in their division.
“If we can gain a little extra competitiveness from that, we’ll take and keep an even keel,” says Snyder. “But it’s probably not something we will mention a lot. It’s something our players are very aware of.”
Unless you are talking to Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha.
“I never really read the newspaper or nothing like that,” Sefolosha says. “We don’t want to let one slip by, especially at home. I think it’s an important game. We realize that, we know that, but it’s the first game of the season.”
And the players and fans can’t wait for it to start.
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