JAZZ: Team 49 or Die
By Rustyn Burnside, ESPN 977
Utah Jazz rapidly approaching the 2022-2023 NBA Season
The NBA world may be enjoying the longest offseason they’ve had since the pandemic hit, but for the Utah Jazz and their fans, this off season has rarely lacked excitement. Mitchell, Gobert, Bogdanovic, and O’Neale were all traded away. House, Forrest, Whiteside, Paschall, and Hernangomez have all gone separate ways in free agency. The only remaining names who played a game for the Jazz last year are Jared Butler, Udoka Azubuike, Rudy Gay, Jordan Clarkson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and the only remaining starter from last season, Mike Conley.
Clarkson was the star former sixth man of the year that kept fans engaged in a year devoid of joy. Gay was in the rotation a good chunk of the year, but fell out of favor with Quin Snyder and Jazz fans alike. Butler, Azubuike, and Alexander-Walker failed to play any significant minutes or to crack the rotation at all and will now find themselves fighting to secure a roster spot. No doubt who will be on the final roster for Utah will be a point of discussion in the next two weeks.
Media day has come and gone, and it was a great time to get acquainted with new faces such as Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt and the like. With 14 new players donning Utah on their chest for the first time, this media day had more to offer than most. It was a surreal experience to see so many fresh faces for a franchise who normally manages to avoid any high amount of turnover. No doubt, Jazz fans had to work overtime to recognize some of the newcomers. The organization knows this is a unique experience in Salt Lake City, and have announced a free scrimmage taking place October 8th at Vivint Arena. This will be key in helping the fans get to know the new team, and to see parts of the rebrand first hand.
What pace will they play? Who is the primary ball handler? What is the new edition of the “blender”. Who will pass the ball? Who will be the guy in clutch time? Will there be any defense? Will this team be better or worse than advertised? These questions are impossible to answer, but we have a feeling this team will be fun. Winning is not expected, but enjoyable basketball is, in the form of young talent showing what the future may hold. Hardy has made it a point for this group to develop their own style of play. Dubbed “Team 49” this team won’t be shades of Stockton and Malone, or Boozer and Williams, and they certainly won’t be Mitchell and Gobert. A clean slate means a new style of what “Jazz basketball” means to the beehive state faithful.
The 49 moniker is representative of this being the 49th team under the Jazz name dating back to New Orleans. Jazz fans used to expect success via championships, but after multiple disheartening seasons, they now expect heart, energy and a determination to grow rather than anything in the win column. With all the training camp roster drama and such a new paint job on who the Jazz actually are, fans will not have to wait long to see how this team functions and operates under first year Head Coach Will Hardy. Jazz fans will see “Team 49” hit the floor for the first time ever on Sunday, October 2nd. They will be up in Canada to take on the Raptors, but rather than Toronto the game will be held at Edmonton. Two nights later the Jazz are back in the states to take on Portland. The preseason will wrap in Salt Lake City, as the Jazz will Texas two step against San Antonio on the 11th, and Dallas on the 14th. The Jazz tip off the regular season at home against Northwest foe, Denver, on the 19th.