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Danny Ainge has a message for anyone who thinks he is rooting for Jazz to lose

“I’ve been accused of (building teams to lose) before. It’s never been true,” the Jazz CEO told Sports Illustrated

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Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge walks the court at the end of a team practice at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge walks the court at the end of a team practice at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. What does Ainge have to say about Utah’s hot start to the season?

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Three weeks into the 2022–23 NBA season, the Utah Jazz are one of the league’s hottest teams.

The Jazz are 10-3, lead the NBA in scoring (118.8 points per game) heading into Friday’s slate of contests and rank in the upper half of the league in several categories, including assists (sixth), rebounding (14th) and scoring defense (13th).

This comes after Utah was expected to be in the midst of a rebuild after dealing away All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell in a busy offseason for Jazz CEO Danny Ainge that netted the team a bevy of draft picks for the future.

Is Danny Ainge hoping for the Jazz to tank?

Ainge, who in his previous job helped rebuild the Boston Celtics twice, has a message for anyone who may question whether he’s upset to see the Jazz playing so well when it was expected they would be in contention for a top draft pick next year.

“I mean, come on,” Ainge told Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, when asked if bothered by the team’s winning ways early in the season. “Who would say that? And who would I ever have told that to? Just think about that for a second.”

“... I’m not commenting on other people’s comments. It’s assumed that’s how I feel? Give me a break. I’ve been accused of (building teams to lose) before. It’s never been true.”

What does Danny Ainge think about the Jazz’s early success?

Several of the team’s new acquisitions have performed well early in the season, led by forward Lauri Markannen, who’s averaging a career-best 22.7 points and 2.5 assists to go with 8.8 rebounds per game.

Kelly Olynyk leads the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at 56.8%, and first-year head coach Will Hardy has the newcomers meshing well with established Jazzmen like Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson.

“I like a lot of the players on our team. But the fact that they’ve jelled so well so early is fun,” Ainge told Mannix. “There is a lot of movement and a lot of guys moving the ball. That’s a fun way to play. And I think they’re all enjoying it very much.”

How are the Jazz building for the future?

Ainge’s wheeling and dealing this offseason has given Utah 14 first-round picks through 2027.  

There are many national experts speculating that Ainge and the Jazz may not be done dealing, with veteran guys like Conley, Clarkson and Olynyk who could bring some favorable trade value.

“We’re in the process of trying to build a team for the now and for the future,” Ainge told Mannix. “We’re just going to be opportunistic.”