** Who are you?
I’m a chill, down-to-earth guy. Like a, you know, not much of a partier or anything like that. I like to stay at home, play video games, stuff like that. Just resting, and when I’m not resting, it’s in the gym.
** Do you prefer to play on or off the ball?
My preference is on the ball, but you, to be in a good team and have good chemistry, you need to sacrifice something, and I think both me and Trey [Burke] realize that at certain points we’re gonna have to play off the ball and it’s just gonna be a thing we’re gonna share.
And you know, one night it could be that he’s better suited to play the “one,” and the next night it might be I’m better suited, but you know, it’s just about adjusting to what the other team gives us.
** Hardest matchup of your life?
World championships against Vasilije Micic from Serbia. Just a strong point guard, and got into the paint and found his man and they were able just to knock shots [down].
** Which NBA player are you most looking forward to going up against?
Derrick Rose. He’s coming off his injuries, and I’ve been a fan for a few, for awhile. So you know, I’m excited for him to get back on the court and then get a chance to go against him.
** Which sports did you play besides basketball?
I did play [football] a bit. You know, I just realized it wasn’t the sport for me. I could run, was faster than everybody, catch the ball, but I just couldn’t kick the ball….I did track and field also.
** (From year-old interview) Will you get the customary NBA full-sleeve tat?
No way. No chance. No. My mum has already told me no.
Rapid fire with Dante Exum
** Favorite shoe of all time: Adidas Crazy 8s
** Kanye or Jay-Z: Kanye
** LeBron or Kobe: Kobe
** Favorite video game: Battlefield 4
** Favorite candy: Reese’s
** Favorite superhero: The Hulk
** If you could pick a walk-up song for when you get drafted: Drake, “Trophies”
** Pets: Dog named Cleo
** Favorite non-basketball pro sports team: Essendon football club, Australian rules football
** If you had to pick one, Instagram or Twitter: Instagram
** Favorite Instagram follow: Kevin Hart
** What don’t fans know about you?
I’m just a young southern guy, you know, low-key guy. Not really high maintenance. I’m an outdoors person. You know, I love to fish. Love to, you know, just to meet new people and things like that…I love going out and meeting fans, and being, you know, being in touch with them. So, it’ll be a good transition.
** The last game you played was a hard pill to swallow. How much are you looking forward to your next game?
That game was hard for me to swallow. I watched it, you know, before I started the pre-draft process, and, just to humble myself. And you know, it was great. It was great just to look back and reflect on that.
And you know, I wanted to go back to school after that loss, but you know, coach [Mike] K[rzyzewski] told me to calm down and just weigh my options some. But you know, I’m just itching to get to summer league and, well, just get to [summer league] training camp, actually, get familiar with the guys, get to summer league.
** Why did you decide to transfer from Mississippi State to Duke?
When I was at Mississippi State, you know, most of the people that I came in with within the program left, you know, one way or another, so I decided to start fresh myself, and you know, Duke, coach K was one of the first coaches to call, and I felt like it was a no-brainer for me to go to Duke. I felt like they would push me to be the best person and player, you know, that I could be.
** Defense has been one of the knocks on your game…
I think, you know, that’s a underrated part of my game. You know, I think, I mean, I guarded the best players in the game at Duke. And you know, it’s gonna be a adjustment for me, but it’s gonna be easier than people think…Weaknesses are kinda magnified in the draft, but you know, once coach Snyder and everybody sees me, how I’ve been working on my defensive game, you know, I think they’ll be surprised.
** You grew up playing point guard. What has been the progression of your basketball career?
I played point guard, you know, pretty much all my life. Played in city league and then junior high and high school. I hit a growth spurt around my eighth grade year. I grew to 6-5 at the end of my eighth grade year. And my ball skills, I kept working on ‘em, and I played point guard all throughout high school.
But once I got to, you know, once I got to college at Mississippi State, you know, I realized, you know, it’s, Magic Johnson is gone, you know, and I became more of a scorer and a shooter, and I still had a little ball-scree–ball skills. I was able to do really well in ball-screens this year, and I want to carry it over into the NBA.
** Hearing that if you play a game of hoops against your girlfriend, you could lose…
Oh naw. Oh naw. I let her win one time a long time ago. I never heard the last of it. So, she never wins anymore.
** What will be your living arrangement in Utah?
Starting off, I’ll probably be by myself.
** Rodney’s dad, Ricky, is a “big Jerry Sloan fan.” (DN)
Rapid fire with Rodney Hood
** If you could pick a walk-up song for when you get drafted: Big K.R.I.T., “Mt. Olympus”
** Most embarrassing song on your iTunes: Beyonce, 1+1
** Magic or Bird: Magic
** LeBron or Kobe: Kobe
** Kanye or Jay-Z: Jay-Z
** Rihanna or Beyonce: Beyonce
** Last movie that made you cry: The Notebook
** Favorite NBA team growing up: Memphis Grizzlies. It was the only team around Mississippi at the time.*
** Favorite non-basketball pro sports team: New Orleans Saints
** Most points you’ve scored in a game: 48, sophomore year of high school
** Weirdest thing a fan has ever said to you: Some fans ask you to hold their babies, their newborn babies, which is kinda weird.
** If you weren’t in the NBA, what would you be doing: Playing baseball
* Hearing the ESPN crew talking about how Glenn Robinson was drafted 20 years ago made me feel old. I think this made me feel even older. (The Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001.)
** What is it about Dante Exum that makes the hair on people’s arms stand up?
I think it’s a couple things. One, he’s a very charismatic player. Just the way he goes about the game, everything he does, he does with charisma. And it’s not flash. It’s just, there’s kind of a, his game kind of exudes some respect, and it’s nice to see that. It’s like a refreshing, kind of purist game. And the other, that would be all fine and good, but if he wasn’t as fast as he is, you wouldn’t get to see those glimpses. So I think his speed and his burst is unique.
** I have this vision of you as a mad scientist playing around, moving stuff. Give me the mad scientist view of Trey Burke and Dante Exum on the floor together.
Ironically, there isn’t a whole lot of madness in that science. It’s, those two guys really fit each other well. I think we have tendencies to name positions. You know, in that sense, really, they’re both point guards, but they’re both very different.
We wouldn’t, it’s a unique position, so I think people look at it and in people’s minds, it’s difficult to have two of them, whereas if you had, you know, we don’t differentiate as much between Enes [Kanter] and Derrick [Favors], for instance. They’re just, they’re both forwards; they’re both centers; it doesn’t matter.
I think the same is true of guards. And a long time ago, there was, you know, Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. There was [Joe] Dumars and Isiah [Thomas]. Whatever those guard combinations were, they won. And they were two of the best, you know, five, sometimes two of the best three players on a team, and that’s how I see these guys potentially…Especially if we play in transition, then positions just kind of fall away.
** On coach K and Rodney Hood
I called [coach K] during the draft. He wasn’t at home, so I had to call his mobile. I try not to call his mobile…The thing he said that stands out–he said a number of things [about Hood] as a player–but he said, “He’s a kid you wanna be around every day.”
And I thought to myself, “That’s good, because we’re gonna be around each other every day.” And that’s, yeah, that says a lot for Rodney and what those people in that program think about him.
Unintentional Dirty Quote Machines (UDQM)
** Dante Exum on his post-draft party: I was planning to go in and go out, but you know, that didn’t happen, so I got back at, like, 3 [a.m.]
** David Locke to Exum on his mad interview skillz: You’re stunningly good at this. You were really good last night. I think you got tired after about the 23rd interview and I watched you go through that whole rigamarole. You really were good today. Do you know why, like, what is it, of why you’re comfortable doing this?
** Rodney Hood on the early flight his family had to catch to Salt Lake: It was tough to get up that early.
Dennis Lindsey: With Dante and Rodney, we’re excited. They’re excellent players, but they’re better young men. And we feel, literally, that there couldn’t’ve been two better fits for the Jazz organization.
Quin Snyder: Dante and Rodney, for me, we’re obviously extremely excited that they’re here. I think Dennis alluded to the fit.
For myself, as a coach, it begins really with their character. Through and through, everything that we’ve heard about both these young men is that they’re strong young men.
Capable of being coached hard, which is always good for the coach. And they love the game, and they’re people that, in trying to continue to build a culture here with the Jazz, that we feel like they’ll be terrific in that building process.
Dante Exum: Firstly, I’d just like to say it’s an honor to be here. You know, it’s been a dream of mine for the longest to be drafted, and I couldn’t be happier to be drafted by the Utah Jazz. They have a rich tradition in the way they play, with, through John Stockton and Karl Malone, and to be named, to be a part of that is just, it’s truly an honor.
And you know, speaking to coach after I got drafted, it was good to hear the plans in the development he has planned for me, so you know, I couldn’t be happier and I can’t wait to meet my teammates.
Rodney Hood: Just echoing what he said, I’m very excited to be here, be a part of the Jazz family. And you know, couldn’t really sleep last night. You know, wanted to just get here and you know, see the town…
You know, and it works out in mysterious ways, but you know, it was a blessing to be a part of this family.
What do you plan to do to put your mark on the team and learn as quickly as you can?
Some of the best advice I’ve gotten is just to kind of hook onto a veteran and you know, I’ll start to get a feel for the team and kinda who’s been in the lean–the league for a long time.
You know, just kind of learn the ropes from them and then try from there to earn the respect and try and lead in my own way ’cause as a point guard, that’s one of the important things, is having a good relationship with every teammate. And then being able to lead from that.
Mike Krzyzewski has only taken four transfers in his entire coaching career. How did you go from a redshirt to a captain?
It kinda took me by surprise, honestly. I came in, and you know, it took me awhile to get adjusted to Duke. You know, coming from my previous school at Mississippi State, you know, you go from a place where you hope to win to going to a place where you expect to win.
And just the everyday atmosphere, you know, I had to learn how to, you know, just grind every single day. And I had guys like [former Duke assistant coach] Steve Wojciechowski, [former Duke associate coach] Chris Collins and [Duke associate head coach] coach Jeff Capel, who was able to, I was able to lean on in that year, and kept me in the gym, and just worked hard on my game.
Also, got a chance to focus on my schoolwork, with Kenny King, the academic advisor, and I just got a lot better. I learned how to be patient. You know, I learned a lot, and you know, I took it over into the season and pre-season, and I worked hard. You know, I became a little bit more vocal, and guys [kind of] gravitated toward me. So coach saw that, and decided to make me a captain.
Can you expound on why homesickness won’t be an issue for you?
It might seem weird, but I don’t get homesick. I’ve been away from home since I was 15 living at the [Australian Institute of Sport], and you know, I do miss my family but they give me the support.
And you know, there’s Skype calls and all that, and I’m sure it’s a, just a, it’s a long flight over but you know, they’ll be there for me and if I want them here, they’ll be over in 20 hours.
In which ways do you feel the pro game will suit you better than the collegiate game?
I think the game’s just gon open up for me. You know, me being able to shoot the ball, and learning different things about myself, you know, throughout this draft process. You know, I’ve gotten a little stronger so I can post up more. And it’s a lot more space so I can put the ball on the floor, you know, one or two times and get to the basket.
So, and defensively, you know, I just need to, you know, learn how to use my length and continue to get better at that. You know, on the, ’cause, you know, everybody’s a good player on this league. So, just gotta continue to get better in all facets, but I think just the spacing will help me a lot.
You were a point guard at Duke and the Jazz draft a point guard and a player from Duke? Seems like you might’ve been pulling some strings in this draft.
It’s not the fact that it’s a point guard. It’s this point guard. And it’s not the fact it’s a Duke player. It’s this Duke player.
What are the challenges for Exum and Hood to become productive NBA players?
Dante, you know, mentioned the youth of our team. I think we have players that really wanna work and get better. And in that sense, the youth becomes a real asset. And I’m remembering, Rodney, that you said you wanted to play defense, okay? Don’t forget that.
Which aspects of your game do you want to improve the most over the summer to be best prepared for your first NBA season?
I’m looking to get faster. You know, coming from where I’ve come from, you know, the game steps up, and you know, everyone’s better at this level, so that’s just definitely one thing. And then also, shooting. Just being a consistent shooter and having the confidence to step up to the 3-point line and knock down the shot.
I just wanna get in the best shape I can possible, and get as strong as I, get my body right. That’s how Imma be able to contribute right away. And you know, just learning the game more on both ends of the floor.
How did your parents (president of a Boys and Girls Club and a principal) raise you and how did that contribute to your leadership skills?
It helped me out a lot. You know, I grew up in the Boys and Girls Club. You know, my, everybody in my family played ball and that’s where I learned how to play ball, at the Boys and Girls Club. And you know, they, my mom, you know, was my principal for a few years so I tried to stay out of trouble.
But it was just great having them as a support system, you know, throughout high school, my college career. They were always there for me.
And just, you know, I guess her being my principal really helped me out a lot, ’cause you know, if I got in trouble at school, then I had to go home and face him. So, but it’s just good having that basketball background and I’m blessed to have them.
** People demoting Utah from “city” to “town”: Bryan Miller.
** Dante Exum has a twin sister.
** Rodney Hood’s parents are named Ricky and Vicky.
** Hood’s girlfriend, Richa, played four years of college ball at Duke and will be playing professionally in Brazil next season.
“But Dennis, before you stand up, I have to just make one comm–”
Unintentional Dirty Quote Machines (UDQM)
** Randy Rigby at the beginning of the press conference: Thank you all for coming this afternoon. It has been a whirlwind 24 hours, literally to the point that Greg just picked up Dante and Rodney less than 30 minutes ago.
** Dennis Lindsey in the middle of the press conference: We’re a little late, but better late than never.
** Rigby at the end of the press conference: It was very gratifying for me, as we came, to the decision time, the climax time.
I have so many questions.
–Who decided that everyone should wear the same outfit?
–Why the matching outfits?
–Did everyone get dressed at home and arrive at the practice facility in matching outfits?
–Or did everyone get there, head to the locker room, change and come out in matching outfits?
Why should fans be excited about Exum?
The tools. He’s 6-6 in his shoes. He’s got close to a 6-10 wingspan. He has the ability to accelerate in a short period of time, and he makes it look smooth. Some of us, when we run hard, we’re gritting our teeth, and Dante seems to make everything look easy.
And so, there’s some ability to break through the line of the defense, array of finishes, his ability to score. And so, as much as anything, there were some speed and some tools that really intrigued us, and we’re gonna have to spend a lot of time working with him [on] his body, his skills, his mindset. But I think we have a development program that will allow all that to come to fruition.
On Quin Snyder’s impression of Exum
We were playing catch-up with Quin, and then the assistant coaches that have been hired in the last 10 days or so. And so, I really appreciated Quin’s approach. He came in, and was listening to our management and scouting group talk about each prospect.
And so, Dante we watched a few times on video, and Quin initially didn’t have a lot to offer. And we had a quiet moment. We were talking, and he asked, “What about Dante?” And “Are you seeing what I’m seeing with his speed and ability to get to the rim?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s who he is.”
On how Exum and Hood will fit into the Jazz system
Within our, what we call our motion-based offensive system, it’s a very dynamic offense where we use pick and rolls to create the lead and separation. And then, like some of the better teams, we don’t want the ball to stop.*
So we really like Dante’s ability to create on the front end of the possession, and we really, for a young guy, we liked his decisions once he was able to get into the paint. So, we think there’s significant ability there to do that.
And then with Rodney, Rodney’s a very good pick and roll player. He was really efficient in what they did with Duke, and Duke has some of the similar spacing that we wanna have, and the nice thing with Rodney is his size and shooting ability. I think he’ll also complement our primary players that will have the ball in Trey [Burke], and Alec [Burks] and Gordon [Hayward].
* I like how Lindsey pretends the last few years didn’t happen.
At 6-6, does Exum have the lateral quickness to guard all three positions on the perimeter?
I think going forward, that will be Dante’s biggest challenge, is the size, physicality relative to the 24-sh–second shot clock and defense. And, but the one thing that we found out through the interviews and through our diligence, he’s a very competitive, driven young man.
So, I think in time he’ll be a good defender, and certainly [has] the size to play the wing, the speed to play the point guard. But Dante’s in store for a NBA introduction on how quick, how fast, how violent NBA basketball will be. But we’re confident over time that his makeup and work ethic, he’ll be a good player.
Lindsey’s version of Kevin O’Connor’s “Judge this pick in two years”
The evaluation will be years from now on how Dante develops and how Rodney contributes.
Why did you decide to trade away the last pick [Jarnell Stokes]? Too young of a team?
We actually liked the player that we traded away, but with our youth movement last year, adding two very young players and one extremely young in Dante, we felt like we needed to push out that pick going forward. It’s something that we did last year, so our ability to accumulate assets is key for us to be able to make deals in the future.
Was the organization close to making a deal to move up at any point tonight?
We really looked at trades in all directions, and certainly moving up was something that we were very aggressive in doing. There, I’m glad you asked the question. There were several media reports that were wildly inaccurate. And so, those type of things are unfortunate, but we were looking several different directions.
What was wildly inaccurate?
I won’t get into specifics.
On Hood the person
Rodney, our intel around Rodney was top-shelf individual, first-class all the way. So, the Jazz fiber, culture that we always talk about, he really fits in seamless.
We got another Dukie in here, so, we’ve added a few of those over the past few weeks. But it’s safe to say the connections that we have with coach [Mike] K[rzyzewski] and the Duke program gave us good certainty that Rodney could fit our group.
Exum is handsome, among other things
There was real maturity there [in the way Dante dealt with being away from home], and we were really impressed. And you won’t ever make a selection because of an interview. You make the selection on their basketball talent, but certainly their health and their character and makeup, and we felt really good with the interview, and that was a key part of our decision-making process.
And so, he’s handsome.* You know, he has the natural Aussie charm. He’s very humble and self-effacing, so I think the media and the market will really appreciate him.
** Exum’s agent is Rob Pelinka. Ugh.
** Has never been to Utah.
** Will wear No. 6.
** Is from a town about two hours away from Al Jefferson’s hometown. Watched Big Al play in high school. “He was a monster.”
** Alter ego is named “Roscoe.”
** On dropping in the draft
It’s, just adds to the chip on my shoulder. You know, I always felt like I was a, you know, an afterthought, and you know, tonight was a perfect example of that. But you know, God puts you in, you know, in places that He wants you, and you know, you just gotta believe in it, and roll with it. You know, I think I landed in a great spot for me.
** What was it like sitting there waiting for your name to be called?
It was kinda nerve-racking. You know, you wanna hear your name called as quick as possible, but at the same time, I landed with a really good team, you know, with great fans, and you know, a great coach, you know, in his first year. So you know, I’m excited I landed in a really good spot.
** Talk about being a kid from a small town in Mississippi now being in the NBA.
It’s unbelievable. You know, you think of, you know, I, excuse me. You think of, you know, just a little kid, playing at the Boys and Girls Club, you know, wanting to be, like, a Big Brother. You know, and getting the chance to walk across the stage, and give some people hope, you know, from where I’m from, you know, that means a lot.
** Do you know any of the Jazz players?
I know Trey Burke. And you know, I heard about Dante [Exum], and I’m excited to be playing with him and coming in with him. You know, Derrick Favors, I played against him back in high school.
** Have you talked to Derrick Favors?
I haven’t talked to him. You know, that was, you know, he was a senior in high school. I was a small kid. You know, he was, so he probably doesn’t remember me. But I just remember playing [against Favors' AAU team] the Atlanta Celtics.
** On playing for a coach that is also a Duke alum
I heard a lot of great things about him, and I’m sure, you know, he learned a lot from coach. And you know, it’ll be a, not a easy transition, but a more comfortable transition knowing that he went to Duke.
** Does it excite you to be part of a youth movement?
Oh, most definitely. You know, going to [an] up and coming team, that’s right there on the verge and got a lot of talent, and I think I can add to that and we can make a playoff push this year.
** Which players did you admire growing up?
Man, I grew up, I watched some really good players. You know, Monta Ellis, I watched, you know, him b–since he was in high school. Al Jefferson, who used to be with Utah awhile ago. You know, Jonathan Bender. I mean, it’s a lotta guys come from Mississippi. Antonio McDyess, you know, is from around there. So we got a lotta good players I was able to watch as a young player.
** What do you have to say about other players saying they won the style game tonight?
Aw man, I think I did good. You know, a lot of people was complimenting me on the way I dress. A little bit flashier than I’m used to, but you know, it’s a one-night thing.
Gotta get used to wearing purple.*
Yeah, most definitely.
* I know purple hasn’t been a Jazz color in a decade, but I still love this. Jerry Sloan used “bleeding purple” last year to describe being a long-time Jazzman, so purple we are.
** Is there anything in particular you took away or learned from your draft workouts?
The main thing, I’m not much of a leader, a vocal leader. And you know, teams want that. And I went into the workouts, my first workout, and they didn’t see that much from me, but I started to get a hang of it, and went into the next workout just making it a goal to be the loudest guy on the court even when things weren’t going my way.
** What is your goal for your rookie season?
My number one goal is to improve on the record of the team in the previous season.
** Have you met or interviewed with Utah?
Yeah, I did meet with them at the combine, but I didn’t work out with them.
Because you don’t expect to be there at five?
No, it wasn’t that. It was, just didn’t think it was, they just drafted a point guard, so we didn’t think it was a good situation.
** On American stereotypes of Australians
Yeah, so one guy gave me a nickname called “Crocodile Dee-ee.” And, I’m like, I’ve never seen a crocodile in my life. But, yeah, it’s like, every time [they] see you and someone says, “Crikey” to me. Someone says, “Throwing shrimp on the barbie.” So you know, I’m like, yeah, I just go with it, and I say, “What’s up, mate?” or “G’day, mate.” And just kind of play off my Australian accent, and people love it.
** Has never been to Utah, but knows where it is on a map.
** Called Utah a “city.” Good omen. (See Malone, Karl.)
** Will wear No. 11.
** Dad played with Michael Jordan at North Carolina.
** Why didn’t you work out for Utah?
Looking at the draft and where I was placed, me and my agent thought that I wouldn’t get down to five, but you know, anything happens in the draft…I’m lucky enough that Utah believed in me, and picked me up at five.
** What excites you the most about playing for the Utah Jazz?
It would have to be being under the coach of [Quin] Snyder. He, had a little talk to him and he talked about how he was a point guard and how he think he can, he thinks he can help me [on my] journey.
** You’ve said that you are a point guard, but the Jazz already have Trey Burke…
Looking at the team, we’re both players that can play the one and two. You know, it’s gonna be a shared role, I think, and it’s the best way to go if I’m on one wing and he’s on the other wing, it’s who’s quicker to get it to. And you know, I’m sure he can play the two as well and I take the one, and I can ta–play the two while he plays the one…I look forward to getting out there and having the chance to play with him some.
** How do you see the point guard partnership with Trey Burke working?
I’m sure it’s gonna be a good relationship. In my Australian national team, we play, we have three point guards, with me, Patty [Mills] and [Matthew Dellavedova]. So I mean, rotations, so you know, it’s nothing new to me.
** Is it a big jump for you to go to the United States of America?
Both my parents are American, so I’ve been over here many times. But you know, it’s not too much of a culture shock coming over here. Australia’s very much like America, so you know, I’ve been over here for about five months now, and I’ve gone very well in adjusting.
** What do you promise to deliver to Jazz fans?
I promise to deliver someone that’s gonna go out and try to win every night. You know, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first game, it’s the last game, it’s, we’re down 20. I’m gonna try to win, and that’s the mindset I’ve always had, and I’m gonna try to bring.
** Who was your basketball idol growing up?
I wanted to be Paul Pierce.
** On the nickname “Crocodile D”
Yeah, don’t call me that. You guys can make up a new name.*
* Music to Craig Bolerjack and Matt Harpring’s ears.
Take us behind the curtain on the Jazz’s draft preparations.
Well, let me paint a picture for you. Just walked out of our video room, where everyone is huddled in there still watching video. The temperature in the video room is probably about a nice 60, maybe 63 degrees.
I think we keep it nice and cold in there. It’s like a meat locker, I think to keep us all awake, ’cause of the amount of video that’s been watched over not only the week, the last week, but the last number of months, in just regurgitating all of the video and really fine-tuning and having s–continuing our discussions.
But there is a real buzz, there’s real excitement. We literally have our whole team in town, from discussing, talking, analyzing, and it’s been very gratifying for me to watch the process and see how, the feedback and input that is given, and the respect that is given, from the top to the bottom, of people weighing in on, as we kinda fine-tune our decisions.
** The Jazz front office had Olive Garden delivered for lunch.
On player development and the coaching staff
These are some very, very good young players [in the draft] who have a lot of talent, but they also have their deficiencies. They have some areas that we are going to need to k–be a little patient with, that we’re gonna have to help ‘em grow up and develop.
And that’s why I’m also very excited that we have a new coaching staff that has extreme amount of talent and ability to really, I think, help us develop this young team, and mold this team to take us where we all want to go.
Talk about the discussions that go on about making a move or not making one.
For our fans, they oughta be interested to know, there’s probably about hundreds of conversations that even start floating out the idea that, you know, that those odds are one in a thousand.
And then, when you even start looking at something in a more serious nature, and start having more dialogue, and again, you’re looking at, there’s a lot of factors that can come into play, and people are cautious not to want to show their whole hand and still look at and keep it in generalities. And in those cases, it then is, it’s now, you’ve moved up to maybe there’s a 5 percent chance of something happen.
Further dialogue, further discussions moves it down to maybe you could get to 10, 15 percent. And, but at the same time, you gotta keep in mind, while dialogues are going on with one another, there mi—they may be having dialogues with two or three other teams, as you’ll have be having also other dialogues going on.
And so, it is a very dynamic process, and a lot of moving parts, a lot of factors that come into play, and that’s what makes the odds of many of these things that people hear rumors out there happening.
Or in many cases you might have agents that are, all of a sudden, floating out to the marketplace that these dialogues are happening, that in reality are not happening, but they’re trying to create a market to happen, for the good of their client, and, or, in trying to plant a seed out there.
So, there’s a lot of gamesmanship, there’s a lot of moving parts, as you look at, really, what happens before a trade or a deal is consummated.
How much do you guys weigh whether or not you get a feeling that a player wants to be in Utah long term when you draft him initially?
Well, that’s part of our process…There’s a lot of young men, unfortunately, that come with some real baggage and some real challenges, and we’ve flagged ‘em. And we’ll say, “You know what? There’re some concerns there.”
You have to look at people not only from their physical well-being, but also their mental well-being and their social well-being, and, to, really, as you analyze ‘em, because all of those areas can come back to bite you.
And we wanna make sure that, as I said earlier, that the players that we’re looking at, then, have, are Jazz fiber, have the Jazz character, and, because we’re gonna invest a lot in them, and we want them to be excited about that investment as well.
What is the Jazz’s greatest need right now?
Well, you know, I think one of the areas that we’ve constantly looked at is that we wanna continue to strengthen our wing area. That’s one of the areas that we, we’re looking at and meaning to continue to strengthen that area.
You know, we have a number of needs, that, you know, Walt [Perrin], and, I know Dennis [Lindsey] has talked about. But I think the wing position is the one for me that is probably the most glaring that I, that we look at in trying to strengthen. So, that would be the, you know, in that area. The “two,” the “three” position. Even the “three”-”four” position, depending on how we play.
It’s gonna be fun, by the way, to see how, we’re gonna see, and I think Jazz fans are gonna be excited. They’re gonna see a different style of Jazz basketball than what they’ve seen for many years, with Quin Snyder and our coaching staff. And so, it’ll be interesting.
I’m excited to see how, even our existing players, the Gordon Haywards, the, you know, Derrick Favors, the Jeremy Evans, Trey Burks*, respond and play into this, into a different style of Jazz basketball for this coming year. And hopefully, maybe that’s gonna help them in their talent and their performance.
* People calling Trey Burke “Trey Burks”: Randy Rigby.
Randy Rigby, Unintentional Dirty Quote Machine (UDQM)
** On the Jazz’s draft preparations: We really know where things are going, where we’re at, how we feel about these players, how we feel and how we sense things could go. I think we’ve really done our homework to be prepared, for any type of, for maybe the public-perceived unusual actions, but we think we’ve anticipated everything that could go in different directions, and we’re ready.
** On the Jazz’s draft preparations: Our guys have done all the homework, of knowing kind of the holes, in many cases, in other teams, lineups, and where their needs are. (1280)
Are you and Karl Malone still friends? Do you talk much?
Oh, absolutely. We don’t talk a ton. He’s down in Arkansas. We’re in, and I’m up in Washington, and both pretty busy. We have a lot of children, and they’re all involved in sports.
And I actually saw him on TV with, I think it was Miss America. I don’t want to, Miss America or Miss USA pageant, and his family was there.
So, we’re running amok pretty good, but every once in awhile, we sit down and make sure that we communicate, and it’s as if we never left each other’s side in the locker room when we do that.
What is your life like these days?
It’s really busy. And I know that’s kinda, sounds, everybody says, “Oh, it’s busy-busy.” I have a very active family, all the way from, what, 26 years old or 27 years old down to 13, and they’re all involved in things.
And one of the things I’ve enjoyed about being retired is that I get to enjoy ‘em with ‘em. I’m not missing games; I’m not missing events, and each child brings something that we can share in.
I have one son that’s playing [basketball] in Germany. I have another son that’s working on a construction project. My son David, who a lot of you have seen with Gonzaga, and my two daughters are both active basketball players, as well as other sports. And then young Sam, my youngest, he’s involved in everything. So, and I’m coaching most of those things…
So, at the end of the day, it’s a very busy day along with some of the other stuff I’m involved with, some businesses here and there, but I go to bed tired most days.
Would you ever want to be a head coach in the NBA?
Not right now. And I, that’s, you know, I’m enjoying this. I’ve coached my youngest daughter Laura since she was a second- or third-grader in basketball, and she’s now going into her senior year in high school, and I’m still helping assistant coach there. So, we’ve been in this journey a long time [and also coaching my youngest son].
We’re not separating. Our family’s sticking together, one way or the other, and there’s just no way for me to even consider something that would either split me into another area that they aren’t, or ask them to move at this stage of their life.
It’s just not something that could possibly work for me and my family, and that’s, makes the decision easy even though there’s a lot of excitement being able to coach athletes and players and being part of an organization like the Jazz again. That part’s very exciting, but there’s just no time right now.
What is it like for your kids to compete in sports as John Stockton’s son?
All of my kids have had to deal with that, I think to some degree, and they haven’t really shown that it’s a problem. They just kinda do their thing.
David, in particular, has probably been the most visible, although Michael played at Westminster there, right there in Salt Lake City, and had a nice career there and got asked all the questions, of course. But David was a little bit more visible, and they just seem unaffected by it.
Like, they’re on their own path, and I’m glad. I feel like we’ve done something at least a little bit right. I think they feel comfortable in their own skin even playing a sport that their dad’s well-known for, and even if it’s at the same place their dad played. So, I have been very proud of how they’ve all handled it.
Do you remember what the 1984 draft was like?
Oh, I sure do, yeah. It was something new for, I mean, really, it was new for the NBA. They were just starting to grow, I guess, as far as, that the draft was still fairly small, and there was a number of guys in New York.
I wasn’t invited. I wasn’t expected to be drafted. And when that announcement came through, my house became bedlam, or my parents’ house became bedlam, with neighbors and teammates and coaches…
I remember being a little bit in a daze afterwards, going, “Wow, what just happened?” But, pretty cool experience overall, and it sure led to an even greater experience with the Jazz.
What did Larry H. Miller mean to you?
It started out a little rough. I was used to–I shouldn’t say “rough.” It started out with Mr. Battistone, Sam Battistone, his family and their, just immaculately dressed, you know, just everything perfect on the sideline there, and great people.
And then Larry Miller comes to town, and he was wearing the sand-knit pants, and he was kinda storming around everywhere, involved in everything. And as a player, you, I said, “Wow, there’s a new sheriff in town here.” That was a little odd.
But over time, I just grew to love him. Gosh, he’s such a caring guy, and he cared about each one of us, and cared about his team and his city, and picked himself up from his own bootstraps way back when and helps people still to do that even if, even with him gone. And I don’t know, you just don’t come across people like that every day.
Is it still odd to you that Jerry Sloan is no longer the coach of the Jazz and the organization you played for, those times are over?
Sure. I knew our time, I knew our stage was over when Jeff [Hornacek] left. I mean, I shouldn’t say that, that’s just a, every, it’s constantly evolving.
And when Jeff retired, that took a big hole out of what I perceived as our, as what the Jazz were. And then little by little, of course we all get older, and move away or move out, just like a family.
So, I, you know, I have no doubt in my mind that the Jazz, with their current ownership with Greg and Gail running things, I know where they wanna be and I know that they wanna get there now, and it doesn’t happen now very often, but they’re gonna get there. And I’m just gonna continue to be a fan here at home and know that it’s gonna happen. (1320)
Not a single “you know” from DL in this entire post…
With you as the point man, what would be the process if the Jazz wanted to move up? Who has a say?
We serve at will to the Miller family, and really, the buck stops there. The things that Kevin [O'Connor] was able to do in the past, that was always under the Miller family review.
And because of that, what we try to do is, we wanna create a very transparent environment internally, and our philosophy, our, all of us, are smarter than any one of us. And so, that debate, we want to really have really strong debate across the table.
And who knows, that, who knows who that person is, that’s giving that pie–infor–key piece of information to swing the vote and sway the room? And that could be, it could be a video guy who’s watching more video than any of us, and says, “Hey, I see this. Let’s go review that.” And we come back, and all of a sudden, hey, that guy’s right.
And it could be a person steeped in analytics that says, “Hey, this guy is showing some statistical markers that we wanna pay attention to,” that maybe we wouldn’t have otherwise.
And then, it could be the long-time scout that understands the organization and players at a really deep, intimate level and in an intangible way.
So, what we’re trying to do is get all those key pieces of information, and then simply talk and review and many times decide how we’re going to decide. That’s a fluid, that’s a very fluid process.
I found that each draft’s a little bit different relative to the themes, and our job is to grab onto the most important themes. So, it’s part art, it’s part formulaic, it’s part gut, and again, so the, even if I were to try to describe going forward, it would, I wouldn’t do justice because when I’ve looked back on the notes to assign credit or blame on every decision, when we keep really good notes, is really difficult.
But it’s safe to say we’ve spent a lot of try–time trying to understand the decision-making process and most specifically, the late draft process.
Everyone gives input. The Millers have final approval.
What are the odds you know which draft pick you’ll be introducing on Friday?
I think we know, fairly good odds, if we were to stay at five, who that group is, and we’re comfortable with the group. There’re many different prospects that add different athletic attributes and skills and mindsets, and there’s no perfect prospect.
There’re a bunch of very good prospects, and to be frank, much of this draft, in my opinion, is how good you are organizationally at supporting and developing the prospect that you take.
I was with a program in San Antonio that, many times we were selecting guys with significant holes, and you try to fortify their holes,* while accenuating** the positives that they have on the court. And I think the program there has done a really good job of making their young players systematically better.
And so, I think that’s going to be a real challenge with whoever we were to select, at really any position. Five, 23, 35, all of the above, that we’re going to have to do a real good diagnostic look under the hood, athletically, do those correctives, look at their skillset, help them tighten skillset, and then support ‘em, because these are really young men.
So, our, we’ve really invested in off-the-court player development. Richard Smith has headed that. We have Dr. Keith Henschen*** that does our psychological component. So, we’re really comfortable with that, but I really think that’s a key part of this process.
* UDQM, H/T @Mac_Jazz
** “Accentuating,” probably.
*** The Jazz’s sport psychologist consultant for the past two decades. Here’s a podcast in which he talks about his approach to mental coaching, if anyone’s interested. He mentions in the podcast that one thing he learned from Jerry Sloan over the 25 years they worked together is “the great ones play forward,” that the most important play in sports, regardless of mistakes, is the next play, not the last play.
The odds are unknown.
Is Kawhi Leonard a system player?
When Kawhi was the, first came [to the Spurs], to plug him into the defensive role, the wing defensive role, it was so key. And then their development people really worked on Kawhi.
Much was noted about the Spurs changing Kawhi’s jump shot, but one thing that I believe really has gone unnoticed is how much better Kawhi finished. Kawhi was a two-foot-gatherer-jump-stop, and so their development people really worked with Kawhi playing off one foot as well. So not only did he become a better shooter, but he became a better finisher through just a lot of analysis and hard work, and it’s a real credit to their program and to their coaching staff.
And so, while he came into the program in a certain role, he came in in that role very young. And now, he’s, his abilities and his development has allowed him, the Spurs, to win that matchup at the small forward positionally, and in the past, it was more of a placeholder type of position.
He has been developed into one, yes.
Have you had any secret workouts with players?
I’d rather not comment on that, but I understand the question.
You know we’re going to assume that means “yes,” right?
I can understand the assumption, but I’ll let you make an assumption instead of commenting.
What is the earliest and latest in the day you could call someone from another team to propose a trade?
Earliest in the morning? Yeah, so, we’re, as you would imagine, every team right now is, it’s 24-7. So, the days of the week and the hours on the clock and our birthdays and holidays that may come up, nothing’s sacred on the calendar or the clock.
[Host relays story about David Stern calling Larry H. Miller at 3 a.m. during labor negotiations and saying he couldn't call anyone else but he knew he could call LHM, and that he wanted to run the parameters of a proposed deal by LHM because if it works for the Jazz, it works for other small markets.]
I’ll say this. I feel like I know Mr. Miller because of all the stories and his book and the organization, and his capacity for work. His mental acuity and grasp for numbers are far past mine and probably anybody else currently in the organization.
And I’m not sure I’d function real well on a late-night call, especially if it’s the commissioner, but yeah, that story, I haven’t heard that story. That doesn’t surprise me giving, given Mr. Miller’s work ethic and natural intellect.
** Dennis Lindsey on Kevin O’Connor, UDQM: He likes to give our group the business. Systematically. He spares no one. (1280)