SALT LAKE CITY — Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, was certainly a day to remember.
First, the NBA’s 1 p.m. MST trade deadline passed with no deals made by the Utah Jazz brass.
Shortly afterward, the team made its annual visit to Primary Children’s Hospital before things concluded that night with owner Gail Miller attending Ekpe Udoh’s “Author’s Talk” series presented by his book club at the team practice facility.
Miller’s discussion with Udoh was centered around her book, “Courage to be You,” but they also spoke about a wide range of topics such as religion, faith, family, artificial intelligence, health care, business, philanthropy, homelessness, marriage, skiing, snowboarding — and Utah.
In the midst of the trade rumors, Memphis’ Mike Conley Jr. was reportedly linked to the Jazz organization but his agent allegedly indicated that his client didn’t want to get traded to the Jazz. Conley later denied the report, but the topic of playing in Utah certainly came up during Miller’s discussion with Udoh.
With her various endeavors, the billionaire businesswoman said none of those kind acts are inspired by changing the state’s perception.
“I don’t have a motivation to change the world’s perception of us,” Miller said. “My motivation is to live what I believe and to portray that and if that’s a byproduct of it, I’m grateful for that.
“I think Utah is a great place to live and it’s a great place to raise children,” she continued. “It’s an easy place to live. It’s easy to get around, it’s beautiful and I wish more people had a better perception of it but I don’t feel it’s my mission to change that. I think we do that some with our basketball team by having great players, players of good character who conduct themselves well and I think they all like it here.”
Udoh is in his second season with the Jazz and reiterated that his teammates “definitely” like playing for the squad, although outsiders may see Utah as different than most NBA cities with the Latter-day Saints culture.
“I think that speaks volumes,” Miller said. “A lot of players don’t want to come here, at least we’re told that, but once they get here, they like it and they build homes here and stay, so maybe it’s a secret that needs to be discovered.”
Jazzmen Donovan Mitchell and Jae Crowder are African-American men who grew up in environments much different than Utah, but have grown to appreciate the franchise. The recent hospital visit was just another example of things they like about the Jazz, even as it happened in the midst of trade chatter.
“It’s huge. It shows that it’s a lot more than basketball, there’s a lot more to life,” Mitchell said. “Kids have a lot going on. For me, I love giving back to the children so stuff like this for me to put a smile on their face on a day-to-day basis is huge.
“This is another example of the Jazz just doing a great job of that and I think for us as players, we understand that basketball is just one outlet, there’s so many different things going on in the real world that we can use our pedestal for and be able to impact kids in a different way.”
Crowder was previously a member of the Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers before arriving in Utah last February as part of a three-team deal before the deadline, but seems to appreciate how business is conducted.5 comments on this story
“Just to set this up and let us come take time out of our schedule to come here and be with these kids speaks volume to our organization and what we’re about,” Crowder said, while surprising kids at Primary Children’s Hospital. “It’s bigger than basketball when you’re able to put smiles on people’s faces and for our organization to make that happen is big.”
On Saturday at 3 p.m., the Jazz (31-24) will host the San Antonio Spurs (32-25) at Vivint Arena as players look forward to getting back to business with the trade deadline in the rearview mirror. It doesn’t matter who doesn’t want to be in Utah, all they’re concerned with is who is.
“We just got to keep getting better,” said Jazz forward Joe Ingles. “Finish these two games off before the (All-Star) break and come back better after it.”