Utah Jazz Ties To The 2015 NBA Finals


It’s finally time for the 2015 NBA Finals! After what has felt like a very long week since the last game of the Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers are set to take on the Golden State Warriors. Every year I get excited about the Finals regardless of the teams involved. Obviously I’d be even more excited to see our Utah Jazz in the Finals again, but that will have to be in the future.

With the Jazz being absent from the Finals for the 17th season in a row (yes, it really has been that long), let’s take a look some existing Utah Jazz ties to the 2015 NBA Finals.

Ex-Jazz Players Playing in the 2015 NBA Finals

There is only one player in this year’s Finals who played for the Jazz, and that is one Brandon Rush. He spent 2013-14 with the Jazz after being acquired from the Golden State Warriors along with Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and some draft picks in exchange for the hefty price of Kevin Murphy.  The trade was eventually combined with the once-separate deal of Randy Foye being sent from the Jazz to the Denver Nuggets and as part of the fun Andre Iguodala went from the Nuggets to the Warriors.

Rush didn’t have a great season for the Jazz.  Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is that at the time he was traded to the Jazz, he was still working his way back from a torn ACL. Accordingly, he made his first appearance with the Jazz in game four of the 2013-14 season, but due to his knee he would then miss the next 12 games. As he eased his way back to action, Rush didn’t play in consecutive games for the Jazz until games 24 and 25. He would ultimately play 38 games for the Jazz, averaging 2.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg, and 0.6 apg in 11 mpg. He shot 33.3-percent from the floor, including 34-percent from three-point range.

Should Coach Tyrone Corbin have given more minutes to Rush? Maybe. I agree with some of Cody Powers’ thoughts on the matter. Rush didn’t seem that interested in playing for the Jazz; he had his bags packed before the season ended and he couldn’t get out of Salt Lake City soon enough. He signed a two-year deal to return to the Warriors in July.

With as good of a team as the Warriors have been, Rush actually played more during his season with the Jazz than he has this season with Golden State despite him being healthy and the Warriors going on a deep playoff run. As it stands, he is four Golden State wins away from getting a championship ring.

Ex-Jazz Players Employed by the Finals Teams

I know of at least two former Jazz players who are working for one of the teams in the Finals. Raja Bell joined the Cleveland Cavaliers’ front office as Director of Player Administration in August, while Jarron Collins joined Steve Kerr‘s staff in Golden State as a player development coach.

Bell had two stints with the Jazz, both of which went very differently. He first signed with the Jazz as a free agent in the summer of 2003. Jazz fans loved his shooting, defense, and overall toughness. Unfortunately when that contract was up he signed with the Phoenix Suns.

Even though he was older and not as great of a player, many Jazz fans were excited when he signed a three-year deal with the Jazz in 2010, especially considering he blew off a planned meeting with Kobe Bryant to accept the Jazz offer. However, things didn’t go as well the second time around. In addition to his game declining, which was largely due to age, he also got into a spat with Coach Corbin. Things were so bad that the Jazz told Raja to stay away from the team during the final season of his contract.

This article from the Virgin Islands Daily News sheds a little bit of light on Raja’s role with the Cavs. In one instance he got the task of pulling Dion Waiters out of a game when Waiters had been traded to the Thunder. Raja got word of this during the national anthem and gave Dion the news after Dion had even been announced as a starter. Raja called his year to that point a “crash course in how the front office operates.” I don’t know if Raja will get a championship ring if the Cavs win, but I’m happy to see he’s still involved in the NBA after his playing career ended on a sour note.

Jarron Collins was drafted by the Jazz back in 2001 and spent his first eight NBA seasons in Utah before spending time with the Suns, Clippers and Trail Blazers. Before joining the Warriors coaching staff he spent time as a scout for the Clippers and a college basketball analyst for the Pac-12 Networks. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne wrote a great piece on the Warriors coaching staff that included the story of Collins’ “Slow Break” being shown in a Golden State film session. Here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Offspring of Ex-Jazz Players

In case you didn’t know, reigning MVP Stephen Curry‘s father, Dell Curry, was an NBA player. The Jazz drafted Dell Curry in 1986. He had an unremarkable rookie season with the Jazz before being traded to Cleveland. He spent the best seasons of his career with the Charlotte Hornets, highlighted by his winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 1993-94 when he appeared in all 82 games and averaged 16.3 PPG while shooting over 40-percent on three-point attempts.

Player The Jazz Helped Get On A Finals Team

As noted earlier, the trade that brought Brandon Rush to the Jazz also sent Andre Iguodala from the Nuggets to the Warriors. Even though he had been a career starter with Philadelphia, Denver and his first season with the Warriors, Iguodala accepted a bench role this season and his been a key piece of the Golden State bench while allowing Harrison Barnes to thrive in the starting lineup.

Player Who Would Have/Could Have/Should Have Been On The Jazz

Speaking of Harrison Barnes, he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2012. That year, the Golden State Warriors were set to send their first round pick in the draft to the Jazz. However, the pick was top-seven protected, meaning that all the Warriors had to do to keep the pick was have it be one of the top seven.

At one point the Warriors were 18-21 and on pace to win about 30 games in the lockout-shortened season. However, by suffering injuries, trading their best player Monta Ellis for the then-injured Andrew Bogut, sitting players who may have helped them win and being extra cautious with Curry’s fragile ankles, the Warriors, managed to finish the season on a 5-22 skid. They kept their pick, got Barnes and now he’s an important piece on what may well be a championship team.

So while you’re following this year’s NBA Finals, Jazz Nation, know that while the Jazz aren’t officially part of the proceedings, there are plenty of connections to the Jazz with this year’s conference champions. Hopefully sooner than later the Jazz will find their way back to the finals and bring the Larry O’Brien trophy to Salt Lake City. If you know of any other Jazz ties to this year’s finals, let me know by leaving a comment or on Twitter.

Next: Could Ante Tomic Still Play for the Jazz Next Season?

More from The J-Notes