SALT LAKE CITY — Utah didn’t make any major offseason moves but fans shouldn’t mistake that for a sign the Jazz are satisfied with the status quo.
With the start of training camp, Utah players and coaches are echoing the same message: Continuity doesn’t equal complacency.
The Jazz are focused on maximizing potential they showed toward the end of last season — with a roster that has returned mostly intact — once the regular season starts in mid-October.
“I don’t want to pick up where we left off,” coach Quin Snyder told reporters at the team’s media day Monday. “That implies it’s the same group beginning to do something. This is a new journey. We can take with us the experience. We can take with us the chemistry and the things we learned. But this is a new team.”
Nothing encapsulates that attitude better than the work various Jazz players have put in while preparing for the season.
Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder dropped weight over the summer to improve their mobility and quickness in operating in Snyder’s motion offense. Favors and Crowder each shaved nearly 15 pounds from their respective frames.
Rudy Gobert worked on his footwork and his shooting to increase his impact on the offensive end. Donovan Mitchell put emphasis on changing pace on the court, so he can thwart double teams and find teammates like Gobert for easy shots around the basket.
Having roster continuity aids their goal of collective improvement. First-round draft pick Grayson Allen ended up being the only major addition over the summer. Rather than jumping headfirst into pursuit of a high-profile free agent, the Jazz banked on bringing back their own free agents — Favors, Dante Exumand Raul Neto — and focusing on continued internal development.
Utah won 29 of its final 35 regular-season games to claim a playoff spot last season. The Jazz beat Oklahoma City in six games to reach the Western Conference semifinals, where they lost 4-1 to Houston.
“We already know the offense, We already know the defense,” Favors said. “We know the whole system, so it makes it easier for us to go through training camp and not have to spend as much time doing that again. We can move onto something else and work on different things.”
No one on the Jazz roster is approaching the season ahead in a vacuum. They are aware of high-profile free-agent additions made by the Warriors, the Lakers, and the Rockets. Keeping pace with other Western Conference contenders starts with putting in the work now.
“We have to focus on ourselves first,” point guard Ricky Rubio said. “We know that the Western Conference got tougher. But at the end of the day it’s about us getting better. Last year, we did a pretty good job of getting better through the course of the season and I think we got to do the same thing now.”