Utah Jazz show no shortage of confidence during Media Day

Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Today’s Utah Jazz Media Day was full of exciting interviews that had one common theme – confidence and determination to exceed expectations.

The start of the 2017-18 Utah Jazz season is officially here as media day took place today and training camp begins tomorrow. Although the beginning of a new year is always full of the optimism and high hopes that come with it, there was just a special feeling surrounding the Jazz throughout all the interviews that took place today.

I think Quin Snyder said it best when he simply stated, “There’s an enthusiasm in our organization for a lot of good reasons.”

I agree one hundred percent with this statement as the new-look Jazz have radiated an impressive confidence and chemistry all summer long and although they’ll have to adapt significantly in the wake of the departure of Gordon Hayward, this team could very well primed to exceed expectations this season.

And the overwhelming sentiment from the players was exactly that. The message that seemed to radiate loud and clear throughout the interviews is that the Jazz are ready to continue to be a threat in the West, particularly with their lock-down defense. There was confidence and optimism radiating from nearly every player and seeing this team come together is going to be an absolute thrill.

Below are a few of the quotes that stood out the most to me and have me the most excited about what 2017-18 will hold for the Utah Jazz. First off from Rudy Gobert:

With Hayward parting ways with the Jazz this offseason, the mantle of the true face of the franchise falls to none other than Rudy Gobert. Thus, hearing him stating that expectations haven’t changed is an exciting sign. This team has plenty of talent and if they can overcome the injury woes they struggled with last year, could very well be one of the deepest in the league.

Rudy’s statements were a clear signal to his team about the expectations they ought to all have as well. People are sleeping on the Jazz and several guys on this roster will be looking to prove them wrong.

Principal among those players is Derrick Favors, who had a forgettable year in 2016-17 that led many to be highly critical of him as a fit on this Jazz team. However, all signs indicate that he had a terrific offseason, is in wonderful shape and should be primed for an epic bounce-back year. In fact, Favors had the following to say about how he feels headed into the season:

If he truly is healthy and can round back into the form from two seasons ago, Favors will be an effective and valuable weapon for the Jazz. Another topic that Favors went on to cover that I really enjoyed was talking about he and Rudy Gobert coexisting and finding success together on the floor.

While several have doubted that the two can fit with one another in the modern NBA and Derrick admitted that part of that has to do with the fact that up to now they haven’t been able to stretch out to the three-point line (although that’s also something he’s working on), he also made it clear that such an assumption is far from the truth. In fact, Favors went as far as to say that Favors and Gobert when healthy are the “best defense in the NBA by far.”

Similar to Favors, Alec Burks is another player that has struggled with injuries and looked far from his best self last season. But yet again, there was nothing but praise and optimism surrounding the former electrifying guard expressed in media day:

It’s hard to know what exactly Burks’ role will be this upcoming season as he had in many ways found himself out of the rotation after becoming unreliable on the court and in terms of health, but if he’s truly back to his old self, he could also be a terrific weapon for the Jazz.

The one player who has likely been the most exciting for Jazz fans this offseason was newly added Donovan Mitchell who Utah traded up to nab in the draft and who lit it up during the Summer League. He’ll obviously have a lot to learn as he makes the transition over to the NBA, but several players were full of praise for the new rookie and expressed that they expect him to contribute right away.

Alongside Donovan Mitchell, his likely backcourt running mate off the bench, Dante Exum, is going to be exhilarating to watch this season as well. Exum is in a contract year with plenty to prove and after a full offseason of work, Jazz fans expect him to make a major leap in 2017-18 and prove that he was worthy of a lottery pick back in 2014.

Fortunately, it appears that Exum is holding himself to that exact same standard. He had plenty of good things to say about his game including expressing confidence in his improved shot and finishing ability. If that all holds true, it will pay enormous dividends for the Utah Jazz and their second unit.

Aside from Mitchell, the other newcomer that Jazz fans are likely the most cautiously optimistic about is new starting point guard Ricky Rubio. Injuries aside, George Hill had an electrifying year after coming over to the Jazz last season, and the hope is that Rubio will be able duplicate that result as well. He’s a pass-first point guard that should be able to help further revolutionize the game of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, among others.

And one interesting quote from Rubio that really stood out had to do with the fact that he’ll finally have some stability with the Jazz organization, and this could work wonders for helping him find a groove and discover his confidence. The radio voice of the Utah Jazz, David Locke, pointed out a few times that Rubio has had five different head coaches for five individual training camps, to which Rubio responded with the following insight:

Quin Snyder has built a reputation as being able to get the most out of his guys, and if he and Rubio can build a long-lasting bond and if the Jazz coaching staff is able to maximize Rubio’s talent (which I feel extremely confident that they will be able to) he could turn out to be a true force to be reckoned with along with his unheralded Jazz squad.

Last of all, the final quote that stood out to me takes us back to none other than Rudy Gobert. In an excellent article from Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune covering several of Gobert’s media day comments, Tony commented that national expectations for the Jazz are pretty low as most have pinned the Jazz as competing for a low playoff spot. However, he then went on to note that Rudy’s attitude is starkly different from that of the national media and that he had the following to say:

"“I think we’ve been overlooked since I’ve been here. But that’s O.K. We have to focus on us. We have to go out there and compete. If we can do that, I think we can have a good season.”"

Call me crazy, but especially for a guy like Rudy who seems to thrive on people doubting him, I love the fact that the Jazz are being so overlooked this year. By the sound of things, from both Rudy and his teammates, it appears that they’re OK with it as well.

Next: Utah Jazz Media Day: Ingles didn't get a call from Gordon Hayward

The 2017-18 Utah Jazz have a lot of question marks surrounding them, but also a lot of potential and plenty of excitement that should make them one of the most intriguing teams in the league for both Jazz fans and general NBA fans alike.

Although a certain amount of optimism is pretty much always expected on media day, there truly was something special surrounding the Utah Jazz today. Despite low expectations and plenty of doubters, it’s pretty clear that this team is on a mission to prove themselves and remain a legitimate competitor in a stacked Western Conference.