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Keyonte George said he’s had a lot of conversations with Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge since the Jazz drafted George back in June. Most of those conversations have centered around George being in the best shape possible heading into the season, and leaving all expectations at the door.

The headline here isn’t about George’s preparations, but rather Ainge’s interest in George.

Last season, at a time when then-rookie Ochai Agbaji was still bouncing between the G League and the Jazz, I noticed Ainge spending quite a bit of time around the young wing. He would talk to him after practices, or give him pointers and advice during warmup drills before a game.

Ainge would often stress the importance of Agbaji realizing that his athleticism is one of his greatest strengths and would tell him ways to use it to his advantage, even in small things like shot form or coming around a screen at the right angle.

If Agbaji was not a part of the Jazz’s future plans, if he was not someone that Ainge saw a lot of potential in, it’s unlikely that Ainge would have invested so much time in helping the young player to break out of his shell.

How the mental expectations for Walker Kessler have changed

On Wednesday, after the Jazz’s second day of training camp, I was interviewing Walker Kessler alongside KSL’s Ryan Miller. In the middle of the interview, Ainge walked over.

“How can you talk to the media when you don’t even know what defense we’re in?” Ainge asked Kessler with a smile on his face.

Sure, Ainge was ribbing Kessler a little, but there was also an underlying message — this isn’t your rookie season anymore, and more is expected of you.

Again, Ainge wouldn’t be concerned with poking fun at Kessler, much less trying to help him out. And you might be thinking Kessler is obviously a part of the Jazz’s future and Ainge obviously invests time in his relationship with the second-year center. I agree.

But I could tell that there was a certain level of rapport between them. Their relationship is advanced enough that Ainge can call him out in front of reporters for messing up on defense during practice and the two can both leave with smiles on their faces. That means that there have been many, many conversations prior to this.

You might then wonder, well, wouldn’t the Jazz CEO have a good relationship with all the players? Not necessarily.

That’s why his interest and investment of time with George is particularly interesting to me. Ainge sees something in George and wants to help him make the most of his rookie season.

New with the Jazz

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Quote of the week

“I love socks. There’s nothing like a good pair of socks.” — Danny Ainge

From the archives

Utah Jazz release training camp roster. What new additions are there?
Flexibility is Jazz’s No. 1 priority as they gear up for a ‘vicious’ training camp

Extra points

  • Rookies receive wake-up call as Jazz open training camp (Deseret News)
  • Utah Jazz players will be asked to take on new roles, responsibilities (Deseret News)
  • How intel gained from World Cup experience will benefit the 2023-24 Jazz (Deseret News)

Around the league

Up next: Preseason

  • Oct. 8 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Hawaii) | KJZZ
  • Oct. 10 | 8 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Seattle) | KJZZ
  • Oct. 14 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trail Blazers | KJZZ
  • Oct. 16 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. New Zealand Breakers | KJZZ
  • Oct. 19 | 8 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Sacramento Kings | KJZZ
    (Times MDT)