SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The new-look Utah Jazz can only hope their transformation this year is as dramatic as that of once soft-spoken big man Enes Kanter, who wasn’t afraid to show off his slimmed-down, muscled-up physique in a series of daring Twitter posts this offseason.
“He needs his own reality show,” backup guard Earl Watson quipped Monday as the team showed off its new roster.
The 6-foot-11 Kanter, aka Big Turkey, was ready to show off his six-pack of abs, and even had his jersey untucked before team officials urged a little restraint.
The former Turkish national team member said he simply wanted to show how hard he and his teammates have been working this summer.
“I am not afraid of anybody and also we are not afraid of anybody,” said Kanter, once afraid to utter more than a few words of English. “We have a really good and talented team and we are going to go out there and compete every night. “
Granted the Jazz still don’t have a superstar, and neither one of the Williams they added to the roster is named Deron.
Management hopes the addition of outside shooters and a point guard with swagger, coupled with key veterans in the final year of their contracts, will help them achieve a new goal.
Rather than just making the playoffs as they did before being swept out last season, Utah wants a deep run.
“We don’t have the superstar,” said new point guard Mo Williams, acquired in an offseason trade. “We have to do it collectively each and every night.”
Tyrone Corbin, who finally has a full training camp and preseason to prepare, said the talent is there for a deep run after a 36-30 finish in the condensed regular season.
“We feel good about where we are, but we have a lot work to do,” said Corbin, thrust into the job when Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan abruptly retired in February 2011. “It’s not going to be easy and we’re not going to surprise anyone. But we have enough talent on this team to compete. We’ll see where things fall.”
The Jazz return veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap – both in the final year of their contracts. While Kanter, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans are still young, they grew up a bit last year in the drive toward the playoffs.
Utah, disappointed at being swept out in the first round by San Antonio, added former Spurs exec Dennis Lindsey, traded for Mo Williams and forward Marvin Williams, and signed free-agent guard Randy Foye.
Of course, the other Western Conference contenders made some noise as well.
“Everyone talks about the Lakers getting better, but Memphis is better, Houston I think will be better, the Clippers will be better,” Corbin said. “And if you look at the West, you’ve got to look at Oklahoma City and San Antonio will be who they are. Dallas is good. There’s not going to be lot of nights in the West where you can take a break. … And we’re going to need everybody.”
Veteran guard Raja Bell is listed on the roster, but Lindsey issued a statement Friday saying the team and Bell mutually agreed it was in everyone’s best interest that he not rejoin the team for camp.
Bell is in the final year of his contract and has openly clashed with Corbin, and expressed a desire to go elsewhere. The two sides were trying to work out a buyout of his $3.5 million deal.
While the Jazz once were the model of stability, with Sloan, Karl Malone and John Stockton, times have changed. Millsap is the only player who’s been on the team longer than the previous two seasons.
“That’s life,” said Millsap, whose first choice is to sign a long-term deal with the Jazz rather than leave as a free agent after the season. “But it’s good to see these new faces.
“I know this franchise is headed in the right direction with the moves they made, the guys that have coming in.”
He was especially impressed with Mo Williams, who replaces Devin Harris and is expected to improve Utah’s outside shooting and provide dynamic leadership.
“We’ve got to get the chemistry down as quickly as possible,” Millsap said. “There’s a lot of new faces and as soon as we adjust to that we’ll be fine.”
He isn’t worried about too many big men – with Favors, Jefferson, Kanter and himself all competing for playing time.
Told that Favors was trying to steal his moves this summer, Millsap was impressed.
“That means he’s a student of the game,” he said. “But a lot of my moves are patented.”
Much like that Enes Kanter diet.
He finished the season at 270 pounds then ballooned to 293 after spending time in his native Turkey.
In the last two months, he has dropped 51 pounds to a chiseled 242.
The six-egg-omelet breakfasts, pasta-and-burger lunches, and heavy dinners with dessert have been replaced by an all-salad-and-seafood diet.
Big Turkey may need a new nickname.
“He’s a lot more mobile and he can get up and down the court a lot better,” Millsap said. “We’ll see how that translates to the game, but hopefully it will.”