The Jazz are the pleasant surprise of the early NBA season, a team that was expected to tank but has been wildly impressive instead.
After trading away Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale, point guard Mike Conley Jr. was the only Jazz starter from last season who remained.
It wasn’t supposed to be pretty. But so far, it’s been a work of basketball art behind the likes of forwards Lauri Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk, guards Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton, and yes, Conley.
Oh, and let’s not forget the work being done by Will Hardy, the former Celtics assistant who is in his first season as an NBA head coach.
“This was tough at first because I’m 35 and I’m so used to having championship aspirations,” Conley said, via Tony Jones of The Athletic. “I came to the Jazz to play for championships. So, I was wondering what would end up happening. But once we got a new coach (Will Hardy) in here and he started laying things out, I knew that I wanted to be here.”
While the Jazz are still relatively young, they clearly have been playing without fear. It’s a nothing-to-lose mentality, combined with old-fashioned teamwork, that has been lifting them to near the top of the Western Conference.
So as for any reservations for Conley? Yeah, those are a thing of the past.
“We are building and developing,” Conley said, via Jones. “I wanted to put my ego aside and focus on the guys. I’ve loved every second of being on this team, and we play a brand of basketball here that we haven’t played in a while.”
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