Defensive effort, accountability among Utah Jazz's NBA Summer League priorities
Michelle Tessier, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — During his first interview at a Utah Jazz practice — a summer league workout counts for this purpose — Quin Snyder did something unexpected.
With a smile, he told media members he wanted his players to see their reports.
Shockingly, he didn’t lose his coaching credentials.
Snyder, whose young squad makes its debut Saturday night in Las Vegas, simply wants a message to sink in for his new players, which is why they’ve heard him and his staff constantly emphasize defensive effort and accountability.
“I hope they watch this and they hear that they have to play defense,” he jokingly said. “We’ll tape it for them.”
We’ll go ahead and assume he’s buying some extra papers, too.
It wouldn’t be surprising. That is how important defense is to Snyder, who inherited a team that finished last in the NBA on that side of the court during the rough 2013-14 season.
“There’s going to be a pride that we all have in defense and specifically pick-and-roll defense. That’s going to be an emphasis,” Snyder said. “It’s not easy, especially in the West (with) Tony Parker, Chris Paul, (Russell) Westbrook, and you can keep going. It’s hard keeping those guys in front, and we’re going to have to do it as a team.”
And if not? Snyder said there will be repercussions. Accountability is another huge point of emphasis the 47-year-old coach is instilling. He said that even goes for All-Rookie point guard Trey Burke and No. 5 draft pick Dante Exum at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas over the next week or so.
“If those guys play defense and they earn their time on the floor, they’ll both be out there,” Snyder said. “If they don’t do the things we want, we’ll find other guys who will.”
Burke wasn’t about to bash his former coach, Tyrone Corbin — he defended him this past week, in fact. But the Jazz’s starting playmaker remarked about how Snyder is serious about stopping opponents.
“I think both coaching staffs really emphasized defense. That’s one thing I really like about this new coaching staff as well,” Burke said. “Coach Snyder and all the other guys are already on us about being on our spots, talking. We’re going to need that coming up for this next season.”
Snyder has simplified what he wants to accomplish with a group that includes four young players with guaranteed contracts (Burke, Exum, second-year center Rudy Gobert and rookie Rodney Hood) and three athletes with nonguaranteed deals (returners Ian Clark, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy).
Five other NBA hopefuls made Friday’s final cut: former Ute center Jason Washburn, ex-Weber State guard Nick Covington, UConn guard/forward Niels Giffey, Australian forward Brock Motum and Bradley guard Chris Roberts.
Snyder’s two focuses for those 12 players?
“I want to see the ball move and I want to see us guard,” he said. “Those are the two biggest things.”
Ball movement and spacing are among the most notable differences in Snyder’s up-tempo, spread-out offense compared to the more structured Jerry Sloan-style sets Corbin continued running in recent years.
“I’m excited,” Burke said. “I think they’re giving us a lot more freedom.”
That will include more pick-and-roll action, an influx in 3-point shooting, a faster-paced offense and a lot of ball movement. That could pay off for the Jazz when they combine Exum and Burke in the backcourt at the same time.
“We want to play a passing game. It connects your team. Everybody wants to be a part of what you’re doing,” Snyder said. “When they feel like that on the offensive end, it’s even easier for them to kind of come together and defend as a team on the defensive end.”
Gobert, used sporadically as a rookie, smiled when asked about his new coach, who hired former Jazz staffers Brad Jones and Alex Jensen to be on his bench along with Antonio Lang, who’s been in Japan.
“I really like the coach’s philosophy, the way he wants us to play defense and the way he wants us to play the ball,” Gobert said. “He’s already helped me and given me confidence. It’s great for me.”
Jones, the lead assistant, will coach the Summer League squad, while Snyder observes.
Utah has three games scheduled: Saturday vs. the Sixers (8:30 p.m. MDT), Monday vs. the Bucks (8:30 p.m. MDT) and Tuesday vs. the Nuggets (6:30 p.m. MDT). The Jazz will then have at least two games in a tournament, which culminates in the championship game on July 21.
Burke admitted he wants to “win the whole thing,” not to mention redeem himself from last summer when he struggled shooting, including going 1 of 19 from 3-point range in Orlando.
But Snyder believes it’s most important to establish “a lot of new habits.” Defense. Ball movement. Personal responsibility.
“Really since I’ve gotten here and even before I arrived here, the theme is accountability. I think even in a very quiet, subtle way you do something until it’s done right. I think players respond to that,” Snyder said.
“We all as human beings, we have a level on our own. And then if someone encourages us, pushes us, challenges us, hopefully we can raise our level. That’s something we want to start doing right now.”
NOTES: Exum and Hood officially became members of the Jazz on Friday when they signed their rookie contracts. Terms weren't released, but like most NBA teams, Utah pays the allowed 120 percent of the set rookie scale. This means Exum, the No. 5 pick, will make $3,615,000 and Hood $1,290,360 for 2014-15. ... Players cut Friday from the Jazz's summer league roster: ex-Knick swingman Mardy Collins, Temple guard Khalif Wyatt and Hungarian center Greg Somogyi. ... The first three Jazz games will be televised by KJZZ TV. Saturday's contest will also be live on NBA TV, which is showing all games on a delayed basis.
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