Utah Jazz Media Day Odds And Ends

Sep 26, 2022, 7:01 PM | Updated: 7:07 pm
Rudy Gay leaves Utah Jazz media day (Deseret News: Scott G. Winterton)
(Deseret News: Scott G. Winterton)

SALT LAKE CITY – With 20 players on the roster, including 14 new faces, Utah Jazz media day was busier than most years.

New head coach Will Hardy spoke of the team’s identity, and what he hopes to accomplish during training camp. You can read more about that here.

Meanwhile, Lauri Markkanen and Collin Sexton stepped in for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell as the faces of the franchise. You can see more on the Jazz two new marquee players here.

With training camp officially beginning tomorrow, here are a few extra odds and ends from Jazz media day.

New Faces Make Impact At Media Day

Kessler Is A Film Junky

If Walker Kessler doesn’t pan out in the NBA, it won’t be because of a lack of film study.

The Jazz rookie went on a 60-second soliloquy about blocking shots, specifically on the art of learning a guard’s preferences.

“If I have a guard who I know really likes to shoot the pull up off the pick and roll, I’m going to kind of bait him to shoot that pull up, but know that my length can contest that shot,” Kessler explained. “Or a guard that really likes to float the ballknow I can attack that float if I see him start hesitating.”

Kessler ended his own answer by acknowledging that he had more to say but wanted to move on to other questions.

Ochai Agbaji Is A Different Type Of Film Junky

While Kessler is digging into film on his opponents, rookie Ochai Agbaji is taking in movies on the big screen.

The wing said his three favorite moves are Interstellar, Nacho Libre, and Back to the Future II.

“I like to watch movies, I wouldn’t call myself a movie critic, but I like to review movies,” Agbaji said.

Mike Conley’s Feast Or Family

Mike Conley is one of the few veterans remaining on the Jazz from last season and faces a difficult dilemma this season.

The guard could get more out of his career by being traded to a contender in hopes of winning an NBA title, but that would come at the cost of valuable time with his family.

Conley’s wife and kids have made a home in Utah and the guard said he said they would likely remain in Salt Lake City this season even if he were traded to another roster.

Where In The World Is Jordan Clarkson?

Jordan Clarkson circumnavigated the globe this summer, playing for the Filipino National Team at the FIBA qualifiers, in addition to a stop in New York for a spur-of-the-moment water fight.

“I was there that day for [Kevin Love’s] wedding, I was like fresh off the flight from Paris,” Clarkson said of his appearances at the Manhattan water balloon fight. “I seen it on Instagram and I was like, ‘Oh wow, that sounds like some fun.'”

The former Sixth Man of the Year said his goal is to take the Jazz to the playoffs this season.

A Reserved Talen Horton-Tucker

Considering he’s moving to Utah from Los Angeles, Talen Horton-Tucker could have brought the bright lights of Hollywood with him.

However, the guard was far more reserved than one might expect. He may have to shake that modest personality to live up to the expectations in Utah.

“I’m trying to be better with the ball in my hands,” Horton-Tucker said of his new role with the Jazz, “I’m trying to be better as a point guard.”

Fontecchio Doesn’t Actually Idolize Joe Ingles

When the Jazz signed Simone Fontecchio earlier this summer it sparked memories of the Italian forward praising Joe Ingles when the two faced off against one another in the Olympics.

However, Fontecchio said that story may have gotten lost in translation.

“The day before [our game] an Italian reporter asked me who I like from the Australian team,” Fontecchio explained. “Of course, I said Joe because he had my same role.”

Young Wisdom From Johnson and Alexander-Walker

Both Stanley Johnson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker are fighting to make the Jazz team through training camp.

Currently, the Jazz have 18 players under contract and need to trim that to 15 before the season begins.

The two young veterans have seen ups and downs in their careers and shared the wisdom they’ve gained from those experiences.

“I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to understand things,” Johnson said. “I’ve been blessed with opportunities to be able to stay in the league and like anybody else, I work my butt off to do it and I’m going to continue to work my butt off to stay in the league. I’m really grateful that I’m here.”

Alexander-Walker said he’s trying to give himself more grace to make mistakes as a player and to focus on his routine on a day-to-day basis.

“Today it’s Monday and it’s been a great day,” Alexander-Walker said. “Tuesday can be bad, but there’s Wednesday, and just using that to my advantage of consistency in a mindset.”

Butler And Azubuike Are Old Young Faces

Udoka Azubuike and Jared Butler are the fourth and fifth longest-tenured players on the Jazz roster, despite having appeared in combined 74 NBA games over three seasons.

Azubuike is still returning from a serious ankle injury and hasn’t been cleared for five-on-five basketball. There is no clear timetable for his return to the court full time, which could make it difficult for him to make the final roster.

Butler is suddenly entering the final year of his career with the Jazz and faces a make-or-break season that could determine his future in the NBA.

“It’s kind of like watching Survivor, who gets voted off the island?” Butler said of the Jazz’s busy offseason. “That’s kind of what has been like, so a little bit dramatic, a little bit of anxiousness, but there’s a lot of things I couldn’t control.”

Butler should get ample opportunity to prove he can positively help the Jazz this season, but in a crowded backcourt, he’ll have to make the most of his minutes.

Vanderbilt Takes Rudy Gay’s Number

With a glut of players on the roster, the Jazz also had a few overlapping jersey numbers going into training camp.

That got sorted out ahead of media day as newcomer Jarred Vanderbilt will wear his customary number eight that he wore to begin his career with the Denver Nuggets.

Rudy Gay, whose nickname last year was “Ocho” moved off the number eight and back to number 22 which he wore in Memphis and Toronto to begin his career.

Lee And Olynyk At Media Day, But Don’t Talk

Saben Lee and Kelly Olynyk were both at Jazz media day on Monday but neither were able to sit down for interviews as the Bojan Bogdanovic trade is yet to be made official.

Bogdanovic was in Detroit Monday to take his physical but it wasn’t completed in time for the trade to be finalized.

Both players should be available early in camp assuming there are no hangups with Bogdanovic’s testing with the Pistons.

Danny Ainge Is Pleasant To Be Around

Considering his uber-competitive reputation around the NBA, Danny Ainge has been a pleasure to be around early in his time with the Jazz.

The Jazz CEO sat with the media at points during the day as Will Hardy and Justin Zanik answered questions and casually made small talk with those sitting near him.

Ainge wanted to know the latest on the injury to University of Utah tight end Brant Kuithe, then shared details from his baseball career, and quizzed those in attendance on where they went to college.

His down-to-earth personality has been a bit of a surprise considering the lofty weight of his Hall of Fame-worthy career.

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Utah Jazz Media Day Odds And Ends