Danny Ainge says Utah Jazz players ‘didn’t believe in each other’ last season

When Danny Ainge joined Jazz in December to oversee Utah’s basketball activities, he wasn’t sure how good the team would be.

At the time, Utah was 19-7 and a season away from the best record in the Western Conference. But as the season progressed, Ainge saw something he didn’t like.

“What I saw during the season was a group of players who really didn’t believe in each other,” Ainge told reporters at a press conference on Monday. “Like the whole group, I think they liked each other even more than was reported, but I’m not sure if there was any belief.

“When we got to the playoffs, I thought, well, this is a team that’s had some disappointing playoffs, so I thought maybe they’re just waiting for the playoffs. I gave them that leap of faith, but it was clear the team didn’t do well again in the playoffs.”

The fifth-seeded Jazz lost to the Dallas Mavericks in six games in the opening round of the 2022 playoffs, a year after the team went 2-0 to the LA Clippers in the conference semifinals before losing in six games.

“As if I think every one of these guys went into every game thinking they were going to win, don’t get me wrong,” Ainge said. “I’m just saying when adversity struck, the determination you could see in a team that believes strongly in having each other’s backs.

“I think individually they have determination, but I just don’t think they did it together. So you see a lot of players trying to do it alone because the belief in each other wasn’t as great as it is with teams that I’ve been on and around that I’ve seen.”

The response from Ainge, general manager Justin Zanik, and the rest of the Utah front office was to hit the reset button this offseason and transfer All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively, for a crowd to send tips and players.

“The biggest thing for us was to open a window to fight for a title,” Zanik told reporters. “Create appreciation for the ownership, organization, community and support we have received over the past three years as we have expended every resource to make this happen. And we failed.

“In the NBA life cycle, this was kind of a touchpoint to set a pivot. To do that we wanted to give the organization every opportunity, the greatest base of flexibility, young players and assets to make really good decisions going forward to reach the ceiling that we want to reach and that means winning a title here. “

In July, when free agency opened, the Jazz traded Gobert for four first-round picks (unprotected in 2023, 2025, and 2027 and the top-5 protected in 2029), one pick trade in 2026, 2022 first-rounders -Pick Walker Kessler and veterans Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro and Patrick Beverley. Utah then traded Beverley to the Los Angeles Lakers for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson.

On September 1, Utah sent Mitchell to Cleveland for three unprotected first-round picks (2025, 2027, and 2029), two pick swaps (2026 and 2028), and guard Collin Sexton, forward Lauri Markkanen, and 2022 first-rounder Ochai Agbaji.

“You’ve got these conversations and there’s a return and you’re starting to weigh what you can get in the perennial All-Star market and we traded two of those this summer, which is forcing us to make a difficult decision for.” to meet the organization. ‘ Zanik said. “We have really good players, but you have a timeline that you want to open with a maximum window.”

Zanik reiterated that this was not a decision based solely on that year’s playoff performance.

“Previous results kind of told us who we are,” said Zanik. “It wasn’t just a one-year thing. This was a good three-year period where we won a lot of games and had a lot of success, but we were tapped into from a potential standpoint and had to reset that. “

For now, the Jazz will go to training camp with 17 players under guaranteed contracts, with no two-way deals, while a maximum of 15 guaranteed deals will be allowed at the start of the season, so more movement could be on the way.

The Jazz have signed veterans Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson, who could see a return that helps bolster Utah’s growing fortune trove.

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/34580761/danny-ainge-says-utah-jazz-players-believe-other-last-season Danny Ainge says Utah Jazz players ‘didn’t believe in each other’ last season

Emma Bowman

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