SALT LAKE CITY — Two decades have passed since an NBA Finals has been played in Utah, but Jazz fans still have a reason to be engaged in this year’s championship.
Thursday at 7 p.m. will mark Game 1 of the Cleveland Cavaliers versus Golden State Warriors matchup.
These rivals will meet for a historic fourth consecutive year after both being pushed to Game 7 road wins during the conference finals.
Cleveland superstar LeBron James is making his eighth straight NBA Finals appearance while two-time MVP Stephen Curry is looking to win his third title in four seasons. Then there’s Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevin Love and a host of stars competing.
Plenty of narratives are prevalent in this seven-game series — including former Jazz stars Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver, and George Hill all looking to win a title for The Land.
Korver, 36, is in his second season in Cleveland. He also helped the Cavaliers reach The Finals in 2017, before falling to Golden State, 4-1.
He played two and a half seasons in Salt Lake City from 2007-10 and currently averages 9.8 points as Cleveland’s third-leading scorer. He has pushed through the personal tragedy of losing his youngest brother Kirk in March from an undisclosed illness but has kept his focus although the Cavaliers enter this series as a 12-point underdog for Game 1.
“There is a different feel for us this year, I think,” Korver said during Wednesday’s Media Day. “I mean, it's the first time for a bunch of guys. But we just got to get out there and play free and see what happens. For our group, that's really good.”
Hill and Hood are a couple of the new guys on the Cavs roster that were acquired in a three-team deal before the February trade deadline. Both are making their first-ever trips to the NBA Finals in completely different roles. Hood has fallen out of the rotation lately but is confident that he can contribute — if necessary.
He averaged 16.8 points in 39 games for Utah earlier this season but has dipped to 10.8 points per game in 21 games for the Cavaliers. Hood has logged just three minutes over the last five games.
“Even though I haven't been playing, just working extremely hard just in case I get an opportunity,” Hood said during Wednesday’s practice. “When I get the opportunity, I've got to make the best of it. So I definitely want to make an impact, but we'll see how that goes. Hopefully at this point it's about winning. If I score two points or play two minutes, it's about winning.”3 comments on this story
Hill was Utah’s starting point guard last season with tons of postseason mileage under his belt with the Jazz, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and now Cleveland. He has started in all but one of Cleveland’s playoff games this year but will have a tough assignment on his hands against Warriors star Stephen Curry. Even with that being said, the 10-year veteran is looking forward to making his finals debut for the Wine & Gold after beginning the year with the struggling Sacramento Kings.
“I'm truly blessed to have the opportunity,” Hill said. “Like you said, the first 50 games were a roller coaster, but to get the opportunity to be in this environment, this magnitude is something that I can't believe that happened. So I'm truly blessed. I'm happy to be a part of the opportunity. I can't wait until it all starts and just have fun doing it.”