Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Like the football tossed around by Enes Kanter, DeMarre Carroll, Alec Burks and other Utah Jazz players, optimism and excitement were in the air at the team's practice facility during Monday's Media Day session.
"Personally," Jazz CEO Greg Miller said, "I'm as excited about being a part of the Utah Jazz as I've ever been just because of the ingredients and the factors that have come together where we are right now."
That enthusiasm-generating 2012-13 mixture includes a new general manager in Spurs transplant Dennis Lindsey, three experienced and tough veteran newcomers in Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Randy Foye, and talented returning guys like Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Kanter and Burks.
"Has anybody ever had a bad offseason?" Lindsey asked, smiling. "It's like the recruiting classes (at) the U. of U. and BYU. They've probably never said, 'Hey guys, we didn’t have a good recruiting class.’ ”
Heck, the Jazz are so excited about the potential of the 18 five-star blue-chippers in training camp, they don't even mind that some of their players threw more wounded ducks than spirals with the pigskin that helped them kill time between interviews.
"We're all set to go," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said.
Today marks the beginning of the third-year coach's first full camp as the main man. He replaced Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan midway through the 2010-11 season and then had his first camp cut short last December due to the lockout.
"It's going to be exciting," Corbin said a day before putting his team through two-a-days. "I told the guys they should be excited because they're going to get a chance to compete against some great competition and great teammates every day.
"Individually," he added, "they have to get better, but we have to build a team that's going to make us good to compete for the long run during the season."
A return trip to the playoffs — and a longer stay than four games — is the long-term target, but there are more pressing matters at the moment.
Lindsey said his goal for Corbin is to help "eliminate distractions" that could potentially take the team's focus away from holding a successful camp.
However, the Jazz GM did answer two questions related to guard Raja Bell's awkward and perhaps distracting situation with "no comment" answers.
Corbin also refused to talk about Bell. Miller referred media to Lindsey's statement from Friday, which indicated that the disgruntled guard, who wants out of the final year of his contract, would not attend camp upon a mutual agreement between him and Jazz management.
While the Bell situation awaits a resolution — likely either a buyout or trade — the players in camp have the task of developing team chemistry, learning how to properly execute on both ends and trying to earn playing time in anticipation of the Oct. 31 season-opener.
"We've got to get our chemistry down as quick as possible," said power forward Paul Millsap, who enters his sixth season as the longest-tenured Jazz player. "(We have) a lot of new faces. It means there's a lot of getting used to each other, getting used to guys' spots and getting used to what they're used to doing. As soon as we adjust to that, we'll be fine."
Corbin wouldn't show his hand when it came to a starting five or what he has in mind for splitting time between the Big Four of Millsap, Jefferson, Favors and Kanter.
But he did offer an optimistic answer when asked about the Jazz's chances of making a deep playoff run with a team that has six likely contributors on expiring contracts.
"Absolutely, absolutely," Corbin said. "We feel good about where we are. We have a lot of work to do. It's not going to be easy. We're not going to surprise anybody, but we have enough talent on this team to compete."
That position depth — at guard, forward and center, not quarterback — is a main reason why the Jazz are so excited about their prospects in what figures to be a tough and deep Western Conference.
"We're all in this together," Millsap said. "We're all trying to reach the same goals, so it's everybody's team. Everybody's gonna come out and treat it that way."
Players' personal development over the offseason — on their own and together at the P3 performance lab in Santa Barbara, Calif. — also increased the organization's positive outlook.
"I think everybody was disappointed the way we played in the playoffs," Corbin said, reflecting on being swept out of the first round by San Antonio. "We knew that we made some improvements during the course of the year, but we have a long, long way to get to where we want to get. They all did a great job of just going out and working on their game and their bodies to get better."
Popular topics at Monday's quote-o-rama on that subject included raves about Kanter's abs and weight loss (51 pounds); Big Al's legwork; Millsap's ever-improving body; the toughness, shooting and savvy play of the Williamses and Foye; Burks' standout summer-league; Hayward's and Favors' progression and boost from working out with the gold-medal-winning Olympic team; Carroll's hustle and so on.
"I'm really excited about everybody and the team," Jefferson said. "We just want to pick up where we left off last year."
Beginning this morning.
"This next month is going to be really critical for us to kind of get ready," said Marvin Williams, who was traded to Utah this offseason for Devin Harris. "We've got to pick up the offense. We've got to feel each other out."
And hope their basketball season isn't as wobbly as some of the football tosses made on their practice court.
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