Danny Aing, left, and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith talk about Ainge’s new role as CEO of Utah Jazz Basketball, responsible for all basketball decisions, at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, December 15, 2021., Deseret News)
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Salt Lake City – Utah Jazz CEO Danny Inge has been very candid.
“This season hasn’t been very fun,” he said on Saturday before Utah’s first game in Las Vegas in the Summer League.
Nobody argues there. Utah’s season was hugely disappointing in 2021-22. The Jazz went from a team that had the best record in the league to one that was falling apart at the seams. It was a daunting task to watch – and Ainge admitted it wasn’t the best to manage.
“Recruiting wasn’t very fun,” said Ainge. “Free agency wasn’t very fun. I went over taxes, there were no quality picks, and our team loses in the first round. It wasn’t fun for us,” Ainge said. “We want it to be fun for our fans and players, but we haven’t had a lot of flexibility to do anything over the last few years.”
Flexibility was one of the main reasons the team relocated Rudy Gobert to mostly future assets. With this move, Ainge and Co. Suddenly a treasure chest of draw assets and they were now in a position to easily dispose of salary to go after free agents in the future. Is jazz better after the Joubert trade? Not currently. But at least there’s a way we hope you’ll have some fun again.
However, this path remains to be determined a lot. Will jazz now focus on building around Donovan Mitchell? Can they keep tearing everything apart? Here’s what Ainge and General Manager Justin Zanik had to say about the present and future of jazz on Saturday.
Are more deals imminent?
Zanic: “We are still in free agency and out of season, so we will look at every opportunity. We still have a couple of places open on the shortlist, obviously assessing the summer league and any other opportunities that arise to continue doing what we can to balance the roster and improve it. But we are happy with a lot of players. Coming from Minnesota, and I think they all can contribute in some way. So we’ll see how it goes, but it’s kind of like we’re in the middle of it now.”
Why trade jazz Joubert?
Zanic: “Look, some of these opportunities come up tough, but given the amount of revenue and how motivating Minnesota is, it was just something we all had to come together as a group and decide, ‘Hey, this is something you need to do for the organization.
Do you agree to close the tournament window with this group? Can jazz be competitive this season?
fingerprint: “I agree with that… We have talked about these things a lot. But we will be able to talk more when we have a team together and the final roster is put together and be able to answer the second part of your question more. I honestly don’t know.”
Zanic: “The team failed, we failed, so we need to recalibrate and try to go and open the next window. Hopefully that will be a long window.”
What does trade mean for Donovan Mitchell?
zanic: “I think it’s a great opportunity for him. He’s obviously a high profile, very passionate player who wants to be great. We will continue to give them the resources to do that and achieve it. He is an excited young man.”
Is Mitchell untouchable?
zanic: “I’m not trying to be mysterious or anything, but Donovan is on our list, and it’s a very, very important part of what we’re trying to do. Things evolve in the NBA. So I couldn’t sit here and say that anybody (untouchable) We are trying to build a championship team, but there is absolutely no intention (to trade it off).”
How was the connection with Mitchell this off season?
zanic: “Donovan has been very supportive of all the things we do. He has a previous relationship with coach (Will) Hardy as well as from Team USA. So we’ve been in touch with him and his representatives, kind to keep them updated, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Are you planning to use the mid-level exception this year?
Honestly: “I mean, we’ll definitely do that. If we thought this player would make a difference, we’d use him.”
What gives you more flexibility?
zanic: “What it does is it allows you to have a lot of very interesting conversations with the contact teams because of the flexibility you have. So you have a chance to talk about different concepts or deals – whether now or already in the next five or six years. And our goal is to continue to add players. essential and building a base that has a chance to compete and win a title in the future. So these assets allow you different paths to make that happen; whether you’re picking or you’re moving those picks to other players.”
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