Utah Jazz Conference Finals Rooting Guide
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz have long been eliminated, but there are still plenty of players and coaches with local ties still competing in the conference finals.
The Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, and Dallas Mavericks are the four teams that remain, and each franchise has ties back to the Jazz and the state of Utah.
With that in mind, here’s a handy guide for who is left for local fans to root for.
The Mavericks eliminated the Jazz in the first round, but have a few ties for fans left to cheer for in the Western Conference Finals.
Trey Burke was drafted by the Jazz with the ninth pick of the 2013 draft and spent three seasons in Utah before being traded to the Washington Wizards.
The guard has seen limited playing time for the Mavericks in the playoffs averaging just 3.8 minutes in eight appearances.
Igor Kokoskov is a former Jazz assistant coach under Quin Snyder but was hired to lead the Phoenix Suns in 2018. Kokoskov was fired after just one season with Phoenix, but got his revenge by eliminating the top-seeded Suns in the second round with the Mavericks.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have by far the fewest ties of any of the four teams remaining. In fact, their closest relationship never had anything to do with the Jazz.
However, reserve point guard Gary Payton II, son of Hall of Famer Gary Payton began his college career playing at the Salt Lake Community College before transferring to Oregon State.
While at SLCC, Payton II led the Bruins to two Region 18 Championships and a SWAC title.
The Celtics have perhaps the strongest ties of any team remaining with the Jazz.
Reserve forward Malik Fitts began his season with the Jazz this year on a two-way contract but was waived after suffering a broken wrist.
Fitts signed with the Celtics for the remainder of the season in March, and has appeared in three playoff games.
Former Jazzman Juwan Morgan is also a member of the Celtics, appearing in one regular season, and one playoff game so far this year. Morgan spent the first two seasons of his career with the Jazz.
Celtics head coach Ime Udoka began his basketball career at Utah State Eastern, one of three stops before landing in the NBA.
And of course, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge was the Celtics Vice President of Basketball Operations and built the framework for this Boston roster before leaving the team last year.
Austin Ainge, the Jazz CEO’s son is still the Director of Player Personnel with Boston and played his college ball at BYU.
Like the Warriors, the connections between the Jazz and Heat are relatively thin in the conference finals.
Unlike Golden State, however, their connection is at least Jazz related, even if he isn’t playing in the series.
Former Jazz guard John Crotty is the TV color analyst for the Heat, and has been on the broadcast team since 2005.
Crotty spent 11 seasons in the NBA, five of which came in Utah, by far the most of any team throughout his long career. The reserve guard spent the first three seasons of his career with the Jazz between 1992-95 and returned to the team from 2000-02.
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