Mike Conley praises SLC, wants to win the right way

Jared Woodcox , 2019-07-20 03:31:32
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Mike Conley knows he has a great opportunity with the Utah Jazz and, perhaps most importantly, realizes how meaningful it would be to bring a championship to Salt Lake City.

In a league that’s become all too closely associated with teaming up with star players and forming super teams, for those of us who lean towards supporting the underdog, the 2019-20 NBA season looks like it finally might provide a bit of a breath of fresh air. While there are undoubtedly several daunting teams and some incredible dynamic duos, there’s no lone clear cut favorite as several teams appear poised to compete for a championship.

Among those teams is the upstart Utah Jazz, a perennial small market underdog that has a reputation for fielding a good team, but not one that can truly compete at the highest level. Other such small market teams that may find themselves in that mix this season are the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers who were both prolific a season ago.

But Utah could very well have the edge over their small market competition and find themselves in the same tier as the behemoth LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers who boast some of the league’s best players in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the former and LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the latter. The Jazz got significantly better this offseason, and one principal way they did so was by adding point guard extraordinaire Mike Conley to their ranks.

Conley has consistently been one of the best point guards in the game and is arguably the best active NBA veteran to have never appeared in an All-Star Game. Flying under the radar in Memphis hurt his prospects in that regard, but his talent most definitely isn’t lacking.

And ever since Conley learned that he would be joining the Jazz, he’s been nothing but upbeat and optimistic. Clearly he sees just how high this team’s ceiling can be and how much potential they hold, and he’s excited to be a part of it.

In fact, in a recent article from J. Michael of the Indy Star describing the current situation for small market teams, he gathered some highly meaningful quotes from Mike Conley regarding how he feels about his new team and opportunity. In comparing SLC to other markets, the Jazz point guard had the following to say:

“You have cities like Miami or L.A., New York, big-time markets. There’s a lot of growth that guys see. There’s a lot of things outside of basketball that guys see that can entice them. I didn’t know anything about Salt Lake City. It’s an unbelievable city. It’s an unbelievable place to be. Guys don’t get to spend time in these areas and communities to realize how good the opportunity would be if they went there.”

Man, that’s got to be music to Jazz fans’ ears. Not only is Conley praising the often overlooked and underappreciated Salt Lake City, but he realizes the opportunity he has to make a difference in such a community, even if it is a smaller one than many players might prefer.

But as if that wasn’t already enough, Conley added another bit of great insight that should excite Jazz fans even further. When asked about the tougher path that small market teams have to follow, here was his response:

“You’ve got to do the right things through the draft. It makes it a little bit of a harder road, but also I think it would be more enjoyable to ultimately win a ring in a place you have to work so hard for it.”

In an era where players have been more prone to seek out the easy way to a championship (looking at you Kevin Durant) rather than working through trials and building something special and meaningful albeit in a perhaps difficult situation, Conley’s point of view is a breath of fresh air.

Today’s society is predicated on instant gratification, handouts and taking the easy way out. Lost in that mindset is an attitude of working hard to defy the odds and experiencing the joy that comes from overcoming those obstacles with diligence and integrity. But Conley is one of the rare few who still gets it. He knows that the harder the journey and the more daunting the path, the greater the reward will be.

In other words, he wants to win a championship, but he wants to win it the right way. He wants that enjoyment that will come from taking an under-appreciated and overlooked team all the way to the top of the ladder in spite of all the challenges that surround them.

Fortunately, the Jazz have put themselves in about as ideal of a situation to do so as they could have. They have a loaded and well-rounded roster with great shooting around defensive star Rudy Gobert and budding star Donovan Mitchell. They’ve added an experienced floor general in Mike Conley and a sharpshooter extraordinaire in Bojan Bogdanovic.

They’ve played their chips just right to bounce back majestically from the Gordon Hayward fiasco of a few summers back. And now they, with Conley leading the charge, have a chance to raise their small market squad to the ultimately glory.

It’s hard to imagine a joy that will be greater than that for the team and the Salt Lake City faithful. Winning a championship in Utah is something that to this day many would say is impossible. The players likely recognize that general sentiment as well, which is why winning it all would be so rewarding, as Conley pointed out.

Next: Rudy Gobert will be the key for the Utah Jazz to outmatch the LA Clippers

Mike Conley knows how special this next season could be with the Jazz and he’s excited to get underway in a new city in which he’s making the absolute best of his opportunity. His viewpoint thus far should have his teammates and fans totally thrilled with the exciting season that lies ahead.

Can it be October already?

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Colin Cowherd (surprisingly) praises Snyder, Mitchell

Jared Woodcox , 2019-01-12 15:00:07
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Contrary to some recent statements, Colin Cowherd actually had some flattering words to say about Quin Snyder, Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz organization.

Utah Jazz fans are used to being overlooked or falsely analyzed by the national media. The small market Salt Lake City team isn’t often in the limelight and as a result, the analysis from a less attentive national audience isn’t always that well-presented.

Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd has been an excellent example of just what I’m talking about. He has done a pretty good job of making enemies out of Utah Jazz fans with some questionable comments about the team. Back in June, he essentially claimed that Donovan Mitchell was merely a hyper-athletic guard that would fizzle out shortly into his career without ever being a winning piece for the team.

Not only was his criticism unfair at the time, especially considering that Mitchell was a rookie that had just led his team to the second round of the playoffs, but it was largely inaccurate. Of all the players of a certain mold that Cowherd compared Mitchell with, Mitchell was far more efficient with a much higher usage rating in comparison to their rookie seasons.

But he wasn’t done there. Less than two months later, Cowherd publicly discussed the Jazz yet again, and this time he committed a cardinal sin – he insulted Joe Ingles. Specifically, he claimed that Ingles can’t defend a bar stool. Apparently Cowherd wasn’t paying attention to the 2018 Jazz-Thunder series, or countless other stalwart Ingles defensive performances.

In that same segment, he essentially bashed the Jazz from head to toe and suggested that if the Jazz and Lakers met in the first round of the playoffs (which is what some oddsmakers were predicting at the time), the Lakers would wipe the floor with them.

Now that I’ve reminded you of these instances, are you getting a pretty good snapshot of how Cowherd feels about the Utah Jazz? Well, now that I’ve done all that, get a load of the latest.

In surprising fashion, considering how Colin has categorized the Jazz in the past, he took to Twitter on Friday to heap some praise upon Jazz coach Quin Snyder and second-year player Donovan Mitchell. Here’s what he had to say–

Of course, it’s one thing to talk on TV/radio about people you’ve never met before, and another to then discuss them after you’ve finally sat face-to-face with them. Perhaps after a positive experience with the Jazz, Cowherd will start paying a little better attention to the team and portray them in a more accurate light.

Regardless of his past statements or perhaps lingering feelings about the Jazz, it was good to see him categorize Snyder and Mitchell as world class and the Jazz staff as first class. These are well-known items among the Utah faithful, but getting the word out to the rest of the doubting NBA world is a nice work in progress.

The oftentimes uninformed opinions of national media members notwithstanding, I’m exceptionally glad that the Utah Jazz have Quin Snyder as their head coach and Donovan Mitchell as their rising star. You couldn’t ask for a more gifted and classy duo.

Next: Utah Jazz: Mitchell thrives against LA, Jazz turnaround to face Bulls

Perhaps Cowherd’s recent speaking engagement with them that he alluded to will help him come around and realize the error of his past Jazz-slandering ways.

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Josh Jackson praises former Utah Jazz asst. coach Igor Kokoskov

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The 2018-19 NBA season is just getting underway, but thus far Josh Jackson appears to be a big fan of former Utah Jazz assistant coach Igor Kokoskov.

The Utah Jazz were focused on continuity this offseason, and they did an excellent job of keeping hold of their free agents. Despite some uncertainty, Derrick Favors, Dante Exum and Raul Neto all agreed to come back to Utah on contracts that were fair for both the players and the team.

That cohesion should play a large part in Utah’s success in 2018-19. However, unfortunately for them, there’s one person that held a key role for the Jazz that won’t be returning this upcoming season. No, I’m not referring to Jonas Jerebko or David Stockton, the lone players Utah lost (though I wish them both well), but rather to former assistant coach Igor Kokoskov.

Kokoskov was named the head coach of the Phoenix Suns during last year’s playoffs, and began his duties once the Jazz were eliminated from postseason contention.

There’s no denying that Igor’s brilliant basketball mind went a long way in helping Quin Snyder and Co. roll out a squad that was both dominant defensively and difficult to stop offensively. He had a good relationship with the players in Salt Lake City, and while they’re undoubtedly happy to see him land a head coaching gig, he’ll most certainly be missed.

But it appears that the favor he gained in Utah was no fluke, as he’s already receiving high praise in Phoenix. In a recent piece from The Undefeated featuring the Suns’ high-potential young player Josh Jackson, he spoke about his fresh new look (he cut his long hair to better cope with the blazing Phoenix weather), his summer and his new squad.

A large part of the new-look Suns will obviously be recently-hired head coach Igor Kokoskov, who Jackson had some great things to say about–

Igor is a great teacher as well. He’s a player’s coach like Steve Kerr. A lot of guys say that about him. He’s a guy who is not just going to direct you or tell you to do things a certain way. He’ll explain it to you, and he’s also a guy who’s going to be open to hear what you have to say. He’s open to your ideas. And you get that type of freedom and leeway when you’ve got players who know what they’re doing, obviously. So the more we get better and learn that, the more freedom we have.

Especially in today’s league where star players like Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler essentially have the power to ask out of an organization if things aren’t to their liking, it’s becoming increasingly important to have a ‘player’s coach’ that not only knows how to win, but can relate to and empathize with the players. Apparently in his short time in Phoenix, Kokoskov is doing a great job of accomplishing just that.

The Suns have a lot of great talent, but haven’t really been able to put it together just yet. With the likes of Josh Jackson, Devin Booker and recently drafted Deandre Ayton, they definitely have the pieces in place to be a force at some point down the road. Now the challenge will be for Igor to put the pieces together and allow them to thrive.

Time will tell if he’s able to do so, but if Jackson is to be believed, it would appear that he’s already off to a great start.

The Utah Jazz face off against the Phoenix Suns four times this season – in Phoenix on March 13th and April 3rd, and in Salt Lake City on February 6th and March 25th. Though the Suns have been bottom-dwellers the past few years, don’t be surprised if Igor’s able to help them begin turning things around in a big way. I don’t suspect they’ll be playoff challengers just yet, but expect them to be much more competitive this time around.

That may especially be true when Kokoskov’s squad takes on his old team. Hopefully the Suns won’t become a lower-tier team that serves as Utah’s Achilles heel, much like the Atlanta Hawks seemed to be last year.

Next: Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell unsure about defending Dunk Contest title

Regardless of whether or not that turns out to be the case, it’s great to see Igor Kokoskov earning some early respect from his current roster. I truly wish him the best in his endeavors because, as they say, ‘Once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman.’

The only exception to my well-wishing towards him will be when he’s going up against his former squad composed of Quin Snyder, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Co.

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Kobe Bryant explains how Kyrie Irving’s ability to shoot allows him to utilize the other aspects of his game.

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Rockets GM Morey praises Jazz, AK-47's home burns

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That’s high praise coming from one of the pro game’s greatest analytical minds. It may not remove the taste of back-to-back losses from fans’ mouths, but it’s something, right?

In any event, the Jazz will have a golden opportunity to get back on track this Saturday when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks.

AK-47’s home burns in wildfires

Firefighters in Southern California continue to battle six wildfires that have ravaged the area, destroying man-made structures and forest-land alike. And with winds in the area expected to pick up, the destruction is far from over.

Among those affected by the devastation was former Jazzman Andrei Kirilenko and his family. According to a tweet from Kirilenko’s former teammate Jason Collins, AK-47’s Bel-Air estate was consumed by the Skirball Fire —

Kirilenko purchased the 4,350 square foot estate in late 2015 for $5.55 million.

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