SALT LAKE CITY — Dennis Lindsey just returned to the U.S. from Europe, but his trip was anything but a vacation. The Utah Jazz general manager and his staff certainly don’t have the luxury of leisure at this juncture of the so-called offseason.
Not only are the Jazz in the midst of a coach search, but they are also in all-hands-on-deck mode while preparing for the June 26 NBA draft.
The rest of this week will be particularly busy for Jazz management, most of which is in Chicago for the annual NBA draft combine that runs through Saturday.
“We’ll have a lot of balls in the air simultaneously, but certainly the focus in Chicago is the players,” Lindsey said. “We’ve got to multitask this time of year.”
Not surprisingly, the Jazz executive wouldn’t elaborate on the progress of the organization’s efforts to replace outgoing coach Tyrone Corbin, who was informed his contract wouldn’t be renewed just over three weeks ago.
Former University of Utah coach Jim Boylen has been identified as Lindsey’s top choice, according to sources. But the Jazz GM declined to comment on any specifics, and he discounted reports that have named names (e.g. Boylen, Ettore Messina, Mike Longabardi, etc.).
“I’m optimistic and I think there’s a good talent pool of coaches available,” Lindsey said. “Because we don’t know right now, there’s no one else that really knows. All the speculation is very premature.”
The Jazz, Lindsey emphasized, have mostly focused on “trying to organize ourselves first” before beginning the interviewing process, but that should start soon.
“We’re getting closer to moving to the part where we’ll reach out,” Lindsey said.
When they do, he explained that the Jazz want to be able to deliver a “coherent, understandable message” to prospective head coaches.
“We have a good story to tell,” he said.
Details of the Jazz’s story, he pointed out, include talented young players, flexibility and good draft picks.
This week could play a big role in helping the Jazz refine that story.
The Jazz will get a chance to sit down with about 18 prospects among the 60 NBA hopefuls expected to take part in this annual event. The players will also go through drills, participate in athletic tests and undergo a detailed physical measurement process.
Lindsey would prefer if the athletes played five-on-five scrimmages, but that doesn’t happen, so team personnel are left to glean any info they possibly can.
“If you pay attention closely inside of the drill situations, you can certainly learn quite a bit about a player,” Lindsey said. He added that his staff will be looking to see how players handle instruction, how they take care of themselves, and their conduct in and out of interviews.
Lindsey said interviews from the Chicago combine in 2013 played a “key part” in terms of the Jazz deciding to acquire rookies Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert via draft-day trades.
Jazz executives and scouts also spend a lot of time throughout the college and international basketball seasons and watch videos of players to see how they react in game situations. On top of that, Utah will continue to invite dozens of prospects for more intimate workouts at the Zions Bank Basketball Center over the next month.
“We have so much flexibility to move up, move back and move out (of the draft),” Lindsey said. “There’s just a need for us to touch a lot of players and hopefully that will be in Salt Lake.”
The Jazz hope they’ll fare well in next week’s lottery, which would put them in a position to get the biggest names of this loaded draft to come to Utah. That might be especially helpful now that Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid won’t be attending this week’s combine.
It didn’t shock Lindsey that they pulled out of this particular evaluation event. The Jazz factored that in to their scouting decisions over the past six months.
“Not really,” Lindsey said when asked if it puts a damper on the combine to not have three of the best players in attendance. “Players and agents are going to do what they feel is best relative to getting to the best draft slot and the best team, and so I’m never really surprised if players withdraw from the process.”
Even without three of the projected top picks, there will still be loads of talent to observe, including the likes of Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart and Noah Vonleh.
“There are a bunch of good players and prospects,” Lindsey said. “We’ll closely evaluate the guys who are here.”
No players from the local colleges were invited to attend the Chicago combine, parts of which will be televised on NBA TV, ESPN2 and ESPNU. However, former Pleasant Grove High star guard C.J. Wilcox (Washington) will be among the participants.
NBA DRAFT COMBINE PARTICIPANTS
May 14-17, Quest Multi-Sport Complex (Chicago)
Jordan Adams, UCLA; Kyle Anderson, UCLA; Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Delaware; Isaiah Austin, Baylor; Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State; Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico; Khem Birch, UNLV; Alec Brown, Wisconsin Green Bay; Jabari Brown, Missouri; Markel Brown, Oklahoma State; Deonte Burton, Nevada; Jahii Carson, Arizona State; Semaj Christon, Xavier; Jordan Clarkson, Missouri; Aaron Craft, Ohio State; DeAndre Daniels, Connecticut; Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado; Cleanthony Early, Wichita State; Melvin Ejim Iowa State; Tyler Ennis Syracuse;
Dante Exum, Australia; C.J. Fair, Syracuse; Aaron Gordon, Arizona; Jerami Grant, Syracuse; P.J. Hairston, Texas/UNC; Gary Harris, Michigan State; Joe Harris, Virginia; Rodney Hood, Duke; Cory Jefferson, Baylor; Nick Johnson, Arizona; DeAndre Kane, Iowa State; Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati; Alex Kirk, New Mexico; Zach LaVine, UCLA; Devyn Marble, Iowa; James McAdoo, North Carolina; K.J. McDaniels, Clemson; Doug McDermott, Creighton; Mitch McGary, Michigan; Jordan McRae, Tennessee;
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut; Johnny O'Bryant III, LSU; Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh; Adreian Payne, Michigan State; Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette; Dwight Powell, Stanford; Julius Randle, Kentucky; Glenn Robinson III, Michigan; LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State; Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State; Russ Smith, Louisville; Nik Stauskas, Michigan; Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee; Xavier Thames, San Diego State; Noah Vonleh, Indiana; T.J. Warren, North Carolina State; Kendall Williams, New Mexico; C.J. Wilcox, Washington; James Young, Kentucky; Patric Young, Florida