OK, Jazz fans, here we go again. You know all those overpriced Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell jerseys you bought? It’s time to put them in the back of the closet, way in the back with the Deron Williams and Gordon Hayward jerseys (and Andrei Kirilenko if you’ve been around longer). The Jazz are starting over.


Since the Stockton-Malone era ended, the Jazz have made several attempts to rebuild and wound up scrapping the plan. Paul Millsap, Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, Kirilenko, Williams and Hayward came along in their eras and, more recently, Gobert; they were supposed to be the cornerstones of a championship team, but it didn’t pan out. Same old story. They were shipped off elsewhere or, in Hayward’s case, chose to leave (and, predictably, he’s never achieved the star status he did with the Jazz).

Now it is widely reported that the Jazz are shopping Donovan Mitchell. He’s been here all of what? — five entire seasons, which counts as an eon in the NBA. He created quite a stir during those first couple of years with the team; on the court he was dynamic, and off the court he ingratiated himself with the local population, showing up at fan barbecues, high school basketball tournament games, a local three-on-three tournament.

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Now he’s headed out the door, it appears. Most reports have Mitchell going to the New York Knicks.

This is known as cleaning house.

The Jazz have more continuity than the vast majority of teams in the league and tend to stick with players (and coaches), but even their patience has its limits. Apparently, two straight division championships did not atone for six consecutive early exits from the playoffs — three in the first round, three in the second.

Quin Snyder resigned after last season, Gobert is gone and Mitchell apparently is about to leave (by the way, does anyone still believe that the relationship between Gobert and Mitchell wasn’t a problem, as we were told by Snyder last season?).

NBA players spend an average of only 2.2 seasons with one team and play for an average of 2.5 teams during their careers. The average NBA playing career is 4.5 years. So change is inevitable.

The Jazz have been among the steadiest of teams. Dirk Nowitzki holds the record for longest stay with one team — 21 years with the Dallas Mavericks, followed by Kobe Bryant (20 with the Lakers) and Udonis Haslem (20 and counting with the Miami Heat). John Stockton and Tim Duncan played 19 years for the Jazz and Spurs, respectively. In the entire 76-year history of the NBA only 50 players have played 10 or more years with the same team, four of them for the Jazz.

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Players are spending fewer and fewer years on any team. There is no longer pride in building up their own team; they’re just hired guns, and not even a guaranteed multimillion-dollar deal can spark any sense of loyalty to one team. LeBron James ushered in the era of shopping for a championship-ready team instead of making his own team winners a la Bird, Magic, Jordan, Russell. That was old school.

As comedian Jerry Seinfeld noted, today’s fans are cheering for uniforms, not players — “It’s different guys every year,” he said. “You’re rooting for clothes, when you get right down to it. We’re screaming about laundry. … You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city. Fans will be so in love with a player, but if he goes to another team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt; they hate him now. Boo! Different shirt! Boo!”

Actually, the Jazz won’t even have the same laundry to cheer for next season. They’re getting a new wardrobe. New players, new laundry, but same old distant hopes for a winning team.

Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and new Jazz head coach Will Hardy listen to Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge speak at a press conference.
Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, left, and new Jazz head coach Will Hardy, center, listen to Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge speak during a press conference to introduce Hardy at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News