SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz haven't been assembled as a full team since cleaning out their lockers at EnergySolutions Arena on April 18, a day after bowing out of the 2012-13 season with a loss in Memphis.
They're back together now, but, my how things have changed in that five-and-a-half month period.
Before the Jazz begin anew with training camp — two-a-day practices start Tuesday — let's review some of the significant events that happened while you might've been camping in the High Uintas, boating at Lake Powell or helping one of the seven departing veteran free agents move.
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Remember the old days, Jazz fans, when you cheered for Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Earl Watson, DeMarre Carroll and Jamaal Tinsley? You can still cheer for them, but they’ll be wearing uniforms of teams like the Hawks, Bobcats and Trail Blazers.
In a loud and clear sign that the Jazz are officially in rebuild mode, the organization didn’t re-sign one of its free agents from the 2012-13 season. Everybody but Tinsley quickly found a new NBA home, too.
That outgoing group, by the way, included four of the five leading scorers from last season, the team’s three captains and 59 combined years of NBA experience.
A sign the Jazz are willing to tank away the 2013-14 season so they can get one of the prized draft picks next June?
Utah is willing to admit that the moves will give their Junior Jazz members much more time to play, but they’re still claiming that winning is the main priority and perhaps even possible with the new crew.
"The Utah Jazz, as you know the history, we're never going to cede anything," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. "We're going to compete to the best of our ability."
Then again, he also stated that building a defensive foundation and developing talent might trump win-loss records this season, too.
"Difficult decisions need to be made," Lindsey said. "I saw it as a dilemma where we really had several good options as far as signing guys back or going with a youth movement."
Ready for a starting lineup of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Trey Burke? It could happen.
Here’s the ball, young’uns. Have at it.
"We really appreciate the patience and the trust that Alec and Gordon and Enes and Derrick have shown thus far, but they're ambitious and competitive," Lindsey said. "They wanted more opportunity, and here it is."
Letting the veterans float away like driftwood wasn’t the only sign this Jazz ship was sailing in a new direction. Utah’s management left behind wake of shock when it brought aboard Golden State outcasts Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush in a big three-way trade.
The Jazz bid farewell to Foye, who broke 3-point-shooting records last season, and to second-round draft pick Kevin Murphy in the deal with the Warriors and Nuggets.
In return, Utah picked up the three expiring contracts of Biedrins, Jefferson and Rush to meet minimum salary requirements for 2013-14, a boatload of future draft picks (first-rounders from Warriors in 2014 and ’17 and three second-round selections) and a chunk of change.
Jazz brass are hopeful the three incoming ex-Warriors will resurrect their careers.
"We needed size. We needed shooting," Lindsey said in July. "Clearly, what we had on our roster after the draft, we needed some experience. We checked a few boxes there."
Another checked box? Their addition helps open up more playing time for youngsters who could be the franchise’s future cornerstones.
"We needed to find out what this young group could do," Lindsey said, "and then we can make decisions from there, and we'll live with the results."
Speaking of Burke, he was one of three players the Jazz acquired on the night of the NBA Draft in June. In a weird turn of events, he was also the third player Utah brought into the fold via trade that bizarre night.
The Jazz made a big buzz in their fanbase by sending their own pick (14th overall) and the acquired Warriors selection (21st) to Minnesota in exchange for the NCAA player of the year.
The Michigan star immediately became a fan favorite in Utah.
The excitement in the Beehive State grew when 7-foot-1 French center Rudy Gobert and his 7-foot-9 wingspan ended up in Utah after a trade with Denver. Point guard Raul Neto also joined the Jazz family that night in a deal with Atlanta.
Some fans’ high hopes for Burke were burst when the ninth overall pick missed 11 of 12 shots in his first game in Jazz gear. His accuracy and comfort level didn’t get much better over the course of the next week, and the coaching staff even had him sit out one game to observe from the bench.
Jazz fans were really torn when Neto came in and looked polished in his first appearance. (The Brazilian playmaker will not join the team until 2014.)
Burke, who’s already set his sights on becoming an All-Star and getting the Jazz back into the playoffs, said he was going to work on becoming more reliable before entering his first training camp.
"Consistency on my shot, consistency on making the right reads, the defensive end, getting better in the pick-and-roll defense,” Burke said in July. “I think if I just polish up those areas, then I'll be a much better player."
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin didn’t act too worried by the 6-foot-1 guard’s shooting slump.
"He can score the ball. His ball was flat because he was shooting it with tired legs, I think," Corbin said at the time. "We'll get him better there. He's going to be a good player in this league for us."
Gobert had never played in the U.S. before on a big (or little) stage, so his performance of the Stifle Tower was one of the pleasant surprises of that Orlando trip. The 21-year-old said he knew there’s room for improvement, though. He also had to undergo a minor surgical procedure on his foot.
“I know I've got some moves. I know I can finish," he said. "But I've just got to get more aggressive and don't be scared to take the shot. That's hard to just get used to take the shots and be aggressive."
Jazz old men Jeremy Evans and Burks also looked sharp for much of their involvement in the summer league.
The Jazz were looking to complement their young pieces with guys who had experience, outside shooting and could put Burke under his wings as he takes the point-guard reigns from Mo Williams.
While Biedrins and Jefferson are several years past their primes, the Jazz are hopeful they can bounce back to their previous forms and provide veteran court savvy and play. The team is also optimistic about Rush’s ability to be a 3-and-D player, who can spread defenses with his outside shooting prowess (41.3 percent career 3-point shooter) and help stifle opponents’ shooting guards.
John Lucas III was hired to be Burke’s mentor after previously faring well in a backup role for Derrick Rose. Utah also snatched up one of the summer’s brightest, emerging stars, Belmont sharpshooter Ian Clark, who wowed the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues with his explosive scoring potential.
Some of the biggest offseason news came early on when two oldies-but-goodies decided to return to the Jazz family.
Less than 2-1/2 years after resigning as head coach, Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan came back in the role of a senior basketball adviser after helping the front office during pre-draft player evaluations.
Utah also welcomed Karl Malone back. He agreed to take a part-time role in coaching the big men and got several workouts in with Kanter and Favors, who initiated the process of getting The Mailman as a tutor.
What Favors learned in early workouts with Malone? “How to approach the game, how to outthink your opponent, just all those mental things.”
Perhaps the biggest offseason loss for Utah was the departure of longtime assistant coach Jeff Hornacek, who was as hired as the Phoenix Suns’ head coach. Hornacek had been helping coach the Jazz since 2007 and was one of the franchise’s best players during his time from 1994-2000 with Malone and John Stockton.
• Hayward and Favors spend time — and have impressive moments — training in a Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas.
• Kanter (shoulder surgery), Marvin Williams (heel surgery) and Rush (knee surgery) work to rehab their way back into playing health/shape.
• Brad Jones is promoted to replace Hornacek as one of Corbin’s assistant coaches, while former University of Utah standout Alex Jensen is added to the player development staff. Former sports agent Justin Zanik is hired to be the assistant general manager.
• Jazz CEO Greg Miller opens up about his family’s business and the departure of Deron Williams.
• Stockton becomes an author of a soon-to-be-released autobiography, “Assisted.”
• Larry H. Miller Properties purchases and installs a massive, state-of-the-art video scoreboard, sound system and viewing screens in a $15 million arena renovation.
• Utah increases its scouting budget and brings in about 100 free agents and NBA hopefuls for evaluation prior to the June draft.