I think it's great having different backgrounds, people of different countries. think it helps us to come together as a team and we have a very unselfish team. —Rudy Gobert
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder insists it isn’t by design that his team will likely have more international players than any other team in the NBA for the second year in a row, although he does acknowledge there are advantages to it.
Last year, the Jazz led the league with seven international players among a group of a record 113 in the NBA in 2016-17. Since last season the Jazz have lost a couple of foreign-born players in Boris Diaw (France) and Trey Lyles (Canada), but they picked up three more foreign players in the offseason in Jonas Jerebko (Sweden), Thabo Sefolosha (Switzerland) and Ricky Rubio (Spain). They also added Nazareth Mitrou-Long (Canada) to the preseason roster.
That means nearly half — nine of the 20 players on the preseason roster — are foreign-born players and when the season starts next month, more than half of the final 15-man roster is expected to consist of internationals.
“It’s not something we set out to do,” Snyder said of the abundance of international players. “It’s not by design. We just try to get good basketball players.”
However, Snyder does say that international players play a different style of basketball that often fits into the style the Jazz play, with a lot of passing and team play rather than one-on-one individual play.
“I think we do emphasize ball movement and that’s something Europe is known for — in international ball, the ball moves,” Snyder said. “But it’s not just international players. Players that like that style can gravitate to this place because it’s something we emphasize. It’s a credit to our players that they play that way.”
The most prominent of the Jazz international players is Frenchman Rudy Gobert, who will be starting his fifth season in Utah. He enjoys having so many fellow foreign players on the roster.
“I think it's great having different backgrounds, people of different countries,” he said. “I think it helps us to come together as a team and we have a very unselfish team.”
“Having a lot of international players gives you a perspective of how big this league is,” adds Rubio. “It’s good to have international players bringing culture and a different type of basketball from anywhere in the world. We come here because it’s the best league in the world so we want to play against the best and be the best. It helps you get better every day.”
Jerebko, who came to Utah after playing in Boston the past two and a half years after four and a half years in Detroit, said this is a new experience for him having so many international teammates after usually being the only one on the team.
“It’s just a different team spirit,” he said. “I feel like with the international players it’s more about the team. I can really feel it just in these first two weeks, just the way we’ve been playing and communicating with each other. It’s all about the team.”
When Jerebko made those comments, Australian Dante Exum was sitting next to him on the podium and he felt the need to clarify things a bit.
“Not to knock on Americans or anything,” Exum said. “We’re not saying Americans are bad.”
Snyder likes the balance his team has right now with both American and international players.
“The diversity of our team can only be a strength,” Snyder said. “There have been times when people think there’s the international guys and the American guys and somehow there’s some difference. But there really isn’t, especially as basketball is more and more a global game. We have a group of guys that have a lot in common, regardless of where they’re from or their nationality.”
Besides Gobert, Rubio, Sefolosha, Jerebko, Exum, and Mitrou-Long, other foreign-born players on the Jazz roster are Joe Ingles (Australia), Raul Neto (Brazil) and Joel Bolomboy (Ukraine).