SALT LAKE CITY — If you stopped paying attention to the Utah Jazz when last season ended, well, you missed an eventful offseason.
(By the way, you might want to ask Santa Claus for something other than an Erik Murphy Jazz jersey.)
Unfortunately for the rebuilding Jazz, this summer was more entertaining and featured more long-term impactful moves than the rough 25-57 campaign of 2013-14.
Before media day interviews take place Monday and the players hit the practice court for the first time Tuesday, let’s hit rewind to catch up on what’s transpired since last April.
The biggest offseason news, of course, was the announcement that four preseason games will be televised by Root Sports.
OK, not really. That development was a close second to Quin Snyder being hired as the fifth head coach in the 35 years of Jazz history in Utah.
“He is passionate about the game and has a 20-year track record of teaching and developing young talent,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said when the ex-Missouri head coach and former Atlanta assistant was hired in early June. “His personality, work ethic and communications skills are important traits that will benefit the Utah Jazz. We have taken a significant and exciting step forward in the evolution of this franchise.”
Not only did Snyder replace Tyrone Corbin, who was contract-not-renewed the week after the season ended following his 3 1/2-year stint. But a couple of guys got promotions and multiple new faces were also added to Utah’s bench to help the former Duke point guard in his first NBA head coaching gig.
After advancing to become one of four finalists for the coaching vacancy, Jazz assistant coach Brad Jones was retained by the organization and moved up to be Snyder’s right-hand man. Former Ute star and player development coach Alex Jensen was also promoted as an assistant to join Jones on the bench.
Ex-Duke big man Antonio Lang, who had been coaching in Japan, was tabbed as the third bench coach. Also, the Jazz retained former Utah point guard Johnnie Bryant and hired Mike Wells as their player development coaches. Wells has years of NBA experience with the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs.
The Jazz knew going into the offseason they’d have Derrick Favors back. He signed an extension last October. They also knew Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Jeremy Evans, Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert would return with their respective contracts.
The biggest unanswered question going into the free agency period was whether restricted free agent Gordon Hayward would come back for his fifth season and beyond.
At least that’s how some outsiders saw it.
The Jazz made it clear that they planned on having Hayward along for the long haul — until the end of his career, Lindsey even proclaimed — even though they didn’t come to terms with him before his rookie deal expired.
Long story short, Hayward became one of the hot items of free agency, getting interest from multiple teams and making recruiting visits to Cleveland and Charlotte. The Hornets spared no expense in wining and dining the 24-year-old guard/forward, even putting him into a video game for a fun presentation during his two-day visit to the Queen City in July.
Hoping to lure Hayward away from Utah, Hornets owner Michael Jordan extended the versatile athlete the most money a non-Jazz team could: $63 million over four years (even though Utah intended to match any offer given him).
Though Hayward signed that offer sheet with Charlotte, the Jazz proceeded to match the deal, keeping him in the fold through at least the 2017-18 season after which he has a player option.
"Gordon’s proven himself to be an integral part of what’s building here," Snyder said at the time. "Obviously, everybody in the league knows he is a talent and a really good player."
The Jazz also exercised their option on guard Ian Clark’s contract at the end of the month, deciding to bring the Belmont sharpshooter back for his sophomore season.
While Utah had some bad luck in the NBA draft lottery, dropping from the fourth position to the fifth pick after being leapfrogged by the Cavs, the Jazz seemingly saw their fortunes reversed a month later.
Australian guard Dante Exum, a highly touted player who was ranked third on the Jazz’s draft board, slipped to Utah, causing fans to go berserk over the thought of acquiring a potential franchise player and creating a big sense of excitement within the team’s front office.
The Jazz struck gold again later in the first round of the draft when Duke shooting guard Rodney Hood fell to them at No. 23 (the Warriors pick from last offseason’s Richard Jefferson trade). Hood was also ranked much higher on the Jazz’s draft board than where he ended up going.
Both Exum and Hood had moments when they showed their potential during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in July.
The Jazz acquired two players via trades over the offseason as well — veteran sharpshooting forward Steve Novak (from Toronto) and guard Carrick Felix (from Cleveland).
Utah added two more players via free agency signings — former Wizards power forward Trevor Booker and ex-Knicks guard Toure’ Murry.
Roster hopefuls Dahntay Jones, Dee Bost, Brock Motum, Jack Cooley and the familiar Kevin Murphy will also be vying for spots during training camp. Murphy, who scored 51 points in a D-League game for Idaho last season, played in Utah in 2012-13 after being drafted 47th overall two years ago.
The Jazz roster became younger when the team decided to not bring the 34-year-old Jefferson back for another season, even though management was very pleased with the small forward’s outside shooting and locker room contributions last year. Jefferson, who said last season he hoped to play for a championship contender, signed a short deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
Utah also bid farewell to the amicable Marvin Williams, who was well-liked by the team and fans during his two-year stay in Salt Lake City. The 6-foot-9 forward reunited with old Jazz teammate Al Jefferson after signing a two-year pact with Charlotte.
"He, in some ways the last two years, led our group. He kept a very young troop tighter," Lindsey said of Williams, who won an NCAA championship with the Tar Heels. "Really North Carolina is a second home for him. We were thrilled that he got a good contract with a good team."
Additionally, Utah traded Diante Garrett to Toronto in the Novak exchange and dealt John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas and Murphy to the Cavs.
The Jazz joined the trend of NBA teams hooking up with a single-affiliate D-League team this summer, agreeing to a deal with the Idaho Stampede. Utah will run the basketball side of the operation, while the Boise-based minor-league squad will take care of the business side of things.
That led to the Jazz hiring Dean Cooper as Idaho’s head coach and appointing Hans Steinbrenner to be the director of basketball operations.
Closer to home, the Jazz also beefed up their player development, video and analytics staff by bringing in Patrick Beilein, son of Michigan coach John Beilein, and Lamar Skeeter to work with Snyder.
Lindsey was asked this offseason how soon the Jazz would be back to an elite level, as the organization has made it clear that is the goal.
“We have a real opportunity to get it right for the Utah Jazz,” the Jazz GM said. “We’ll just continuously try to do the right thing from a development standpoint. …
“The only thing that we know to do is keeping true to the idea and the discipline that we get in place,” he added. “Then, I think if we put enough good days together, we’ll eventually have a very consistent (team) and hopefully a championship contender like they had with John (Stockton) and Karl (Malone) here.”
The hard part starts Tuesday.