UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Owner Smith Hopes Gobert Is ‘Going to Be Here For A Really Long Time’

Dec 18, 2020, 4:07 PM | Updated: 4:20 pm
Rudy Gobert - Golden State Warriors - Utah Jazz...
Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on January 22, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Shortly after his purchase of the Utah Jazz was approved by the NBA Board of Governors, Ryan Smith discussed the issues that face the team, bringing in minority owners, and what he hopes to accomplish with the Jazz.

While his ownership is just beginning, he already faces one pressing deadline, the contract extension for All-NBA center Rudy Gobert.

Gobert is eligible for the supermax extension worth upwards of $250 million over five seasons. Though reports indicate Gobert is willing to take less than the maximum value to stay in Utah, only the Jazz and Gobert’s representatives are sure of how much it will cost to bring him back.

“I love Rudy, I mean I see everything he does and I have so much respect for him,” Smith said of the Jazz All-Star big man. “And we definitely hope he’s going to be here for a really long time.”

Of course, Smith’s answer can be read in a few different ways.

On one hand, Smith sounds hopeful that the Jazz and Gobert can reach a long term agreement ahead of unrestricted free agency next summer.

On the other, it could be interpreted that the ball now rests in Gobert’s court. The Jazz obviously want him back, but the two-time Defensive Player of the Year needs to reciprocate that desire, even if it means shaving a few dollars off his asking price.

Smith hasn’t been shy about spending money since the process of purchasing the team began. Since the deal was announced in October, the Jazz have inked All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell to a five-year, $195 million contract, re-signed Jordan Clarkson for four years and $52 million, and brought back Derrick Favors using the mid-level exception.

In total, Smith has committed nearly $300 million to three Jazz players over the next half-decade without coming to terms with Gobert.

Despite the delay, Smith spoke about the Jazz future as though he planned to have Gobert in the mix.

“We have a special group,” Smith said of the team’s future. “When you have Donovan and Rudy, Favors wants to come back, and [Clarkson] wants to stay here, and a coach like Quin, everyone feels it here, everyone knows where we’re at.”

New Minority Owners

Smith isn’t the only name joining the Jazz ownership group. While the Miller family will hold onto a minority share, two other tech billionaires are buying into the team.

First, Ryan Sweeney, a venture capitalist from the firm Accel is joining Smith and the Jazz. Sweeney and his firm were investors in Smith’s Qualtrics company over the last decade.

And second, Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Atlassian who has worked with Smith and Sweeney developing software for tech companies. Cannon-Brookes is now the first Australian to have an ownership stake in an NBA team.

“I’m just thrilled to be in business with folks like this and I think the Miller’s are the same way,” Smith said. “They’ll make us better and they’ll make Utah better.”

Fixing Television Issues

Outside of winning a championship, there’s perhaps no larger issue on the mind of Jazz fans than finding an affordable streaming option to watch the team play.

The Jazz television rights are owned by AT&T SportsNet which has limited options for streaming outside of being an AT&T subscriber. As a result, fans are left with few options than to subscribe to pricey cable and satellite providers to be able to watch the games on TV.

Smith didn’t shy away from tackling the streaming question atop Jazz fans’ minds.

“I’m excited, I haven’t sat down with them yet but I’m excited to say ‘What are you working on?'” Smith said. “‘How do we do this? What are the models that can work?'”

The new owner understands that there is more than one type of fans wanting to watch the Jazz. From fans wanting to tune in at home, to fans like new owner Cannon-Brookes in Australia, finding new avenues for distribution can only help the team.

“I do believe that we can do better at it,” Smith said. “It’s not just a one size fits all and I’m excited to go help with that.”

The Jazz tenure with Smith as the majority gets underway Wednesday as the team opens the season on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers. Fans won’t yet have a streaming option but can watch the game on AT&T SportsNet.

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Jazz Owner Smith Hopes Gobert Is ‘Going to Be Here For A Really Long Time’