SALT LAKE CITY — Less than a week ago, members of the Utah Jazz traveled to Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center to deliver a 39-point beatdown over the Kings.
That victory marked a 5-0 preseason finish for the Jazz, but Derrick Favors has erased that performance from his memory.
As the franchise gets close to tipping off its 40th season of Utah Jazz basketball, Sacramento is once again on the schedule for the 2018-19 regular-season opener on Wednesday in the same arena.
“We have to forget about that game. That was a preseason game,” Favors said following Monday’s practice. “Now, we’re getting ready to go into the regular season where we’re playing them for real now, so we have to go in there with the right mentality and know that they’re going to come out ready.
“It’s their home opener, so they’re going to come out with a lot of energy so we have to be mentally strong and withstand that first quarter and stick to our principles,” he added. “Make sure we’re solid defensively, make sure we run through our sets offensively and just play good basketball. Share the ball and play the way that we play.”
The Jazz-Kings matchup is set for 8 p.m. MDT, then the team will return to Vivint Arena for its home opener Friday at 8:30 p.m. against the defending champion Golden State Warriors on ESPN.
Unlike last year, Utah enters the season with high expectations, as rising star Donovan Mitchell is no longer a mystery. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert is also respected, as much of the same core from last year’s second-round playoff team has now returned with the addition of rookie guard Grayson Allen.
Also, the community support is evident through the hashtags #TeamIsEverything and #TakeNote. Two large-scale murals will also be painted in downtown Salt Lake City to commemorate the beginning of the new season.
“We look forward to celebrating the 40th season of Jazz basketball,” said Steve Starks, president of the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment. “The incredible community support for this team is felt throughout the organization, and we can’t wait to tip off another promising season.”
While the Jazz shined during the preseason, coach Quin Snyder still challenged his team to improve defensively and to stay mentally locked in. Utah is expecting a much different Kings team once the ball is tipped off Wednesday, as they’re now targets throughout the league, due to their recent success.
“A lot of it for us is just our focus mentally,” Snyder said. “Some of our habits are there, but like anything, if you don’t do it, it can cease to become a habit and sometimes there’s a sense that in practice you work on those things, then in the game you go ahead and do what you want and maybe less attention to detail … less concentration.
“I feel like the last couple games we’ve been able to drill down on that more, and that’s what competition does for you.”
Players are healthy and were able to flip the switch to regular-season mode after enduring a tough training camp and solid preseason schedule.
On opening night, the Jazz will have six international players on the roster with a swagger-filled team full of confidence while looking to get off to a solid start.
“We’re a lot better. Obviously, that first preseason game everybody was getting back used to playing in the system,” Favors said. “In the offseason, you play more one-on-one type basketball, so we had to come back and play in the system, so throughout the whole preseason we just worked on that connectivity, and I think we found it and got it back.”