During the months of May and June, the Utah Jazz brought in 70 players for pre-draft workouts at the Zions Bank Basketball Center. None of those players happened to be Ian Clark, a 6-foot-3 guard from Belmont University who visited nine other NBA teams for workouts.
Yet Clark was the guy in the purple shirt and striped tie being introduced Monday afternoon as the latest Utah player. Clark was offered — and signed — a contract thanks in large part to his outstanding performances in summer league games in Orlando and Las Vegas.
Clark called it “a dream come true’’ to be signed by the Jazz and said when he got the news, “I was overwhelmed. ... I was excited.’’ He said he had other teams interested in him after his play in the summer leagues, but chose Utah for the “opportunity” the Jazz offered him.
You sure it wasn't that offered the most money?
Monday was Clark’s second visit to Salt Lake City, his first being in March when his Belmont team came to EnergySolutions Arena to play Arizona. Clark played well in that game, scoring 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, but his team lost 81-64.
I'm guessing Jazz officials(Lindsay/O'Conner/Perrin/etc.) were at that game.
While playing for Belmont, Clark became the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,920 points and was an all-conference selection four times. He was the Ohio Valley Conference Co-Player of the Year as a senior.
Despite his outstanding collegiate career, Clark wasn’t waiting by the phone on draft night.
“I wasn’t really expecting to be drafted and I knew my time would be in summer league to come in and play well,’’ the 22-year-old Clark said. “I feel pretty confident and with the opportunity I have in front of me, I just need to take advantage of it.’’
Clark was named the NBA Summer League Championship MVP in Las Vegas after scoring 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting, including 7 of 10 from 3-point range in Golden State’s 91-77 victory over Phoenix. He was also named to the all-summer league second team in Orlando, playing for Miami.
“I can’t put a finger on why I was overlooked, but I’ve definitely made a lot of improvement the last few months,'' he said.
He is known for his shooting — his 45.9 percent at Belmont was third in the nation — but he is also known for his defense as he was named the defensive player of the year in his conference.
“That is something I definitely try to bring to the game,’’ he said. “You can’t play one side of the floor, especially in this league.’’
Clark most likely will be the Jazz’s fifth guard, backing up shooting guards Alec Burks and Brandon Rush, as well as point guards Trey Burke and John Lucas III.
Really? Lucas should be at the end of the bench. This guy probably makes the most sense next to Burks and Hayward until Burke hopefully gets up to speed anyway.
Clark, a combo guard, was named the MVP of the NBA Summer League Championship Game, in which he drained seven 3-pointers and scored 33 points to lead Golden State.
He also played for Miami at the Orlando Pro Summer League, where he scored at least 15 points in all five games.
In Vegas, Clark was the unexpected star of a Warriors entry that included Golden State rotation players Draymond Green and Kent Bazemore.
"It was their team in summer league," Clark said. "They were the captains. They kind of took control of the game, and I told them whenever they needed me I’d be ready.
"Those guys, to their credit, when they were closed in on when they dished the ball out to me, I was ready."
At Belmont, Clark led the Bruins to three NCAA Tournaments in four years, including a second-round loss to Arizona at EnergySolutions Arena in March.
Clark arrived in Salt Lake City on Sunday and met with coach Tyrone Corbin for dinner at a downtown steakhouse. Clark said Corbin told him he wanted the new guard to feel able to come in and "freestyle," to operate within the flow of the game and not be constricted by the offense.
"We got to an understanding," Clark said, "found out a little about each other. He really helped me with that transition. We talked about earlier just free my mind, ready to work. There’s a lot of opportunity here for me."
Along with five NBA teams, Duffy said many European clubs were interested in signing Clark, but that the Jazz’s offer created the best situation for the shooting guard.
"The opportunity, in my assessment, was this was the best for him," Duffy said.
The Jazz were interested in Clark as far back as draft night, Duffy said, when they acquired point guard Trey Burke, center Rudy Gobert and Brazilian point guard Raul Neto.
Clark appeared in three NCAA Tournaments with Belmont and averaged 18.2 points as a senior. Duffy said he had interest from five other NBA teams, which, according to a USA Today report, included Portland, Golden State, Boston and Miami. He played with the Heat at the Orlando Pro Summer League.
Clark would join Alec Burks and Brandon Rush, acquired from Golden State earlier in July, as shooting guards on the Jazz roster.
There is a popular notion in the basketball world that the Utah Jazz are — gasp! — purposely loading/unloading the roster for losses this season.
The idea is that the Jazz want to possess a big bucket full of pingpong balls for a lottery of an NBA draft next June that is supposed to be deep, beginning with superstar-on-deck Andrew Wiggins.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey refutes that charge.
And of course he does.
Utah didn’t re-sign any of its seven veteran free agents — including leading scorers Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap — and is clearly entering something that might even be too young to be called a youth movement. But Lindsey isn’t about to admit that his organization is preparing to lose on purpose. He's said that building a defensive foundation trumps win-loss totals this season, but good luck getting him to say the Jazz are in tank mode.
The team executive wouldn’t admit it even if it were true, which, of course, he says it’s not.
"The Utah Jazz, as you know the history, we're never going to cede anything," Lindsey said. "We're going to compete to the best of our ability."
“I’m certainly not going to tank at all. You know me well enough. I hate losses,” Hayward said at last week’s Team USA minicamp. “I’m going to be playing as hard as I can. We’re going to be competing as hard as we can. There’s not going to be any tanking for us.”
The tanking comes from the front office G and possibly the coaching staff if young guys that suck(Burke) are playing over better players.
Even if they try hard not to tank, it’s quite possible — probable, many believe — that the Jazz simply don’t have the combination of talent and experience to win more than 25-30 games.
That seems overly optimistic at this point. The record of 9 wins looks to be withing reach.
“This is called ‘being bad on purpose,’” Grantland.com’s Zach Lowe wrote last week. “(If) Gordon Hayward is your No. 1 option on offense, you're on track for a bottom-five ranking in points per possession and a ton of losses in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.”
I'd look to Burks and Kanter(possibly Burke if he gets his shit together at some point) as the first two options despite G being the top returning scorer. They are more natural scorers than him. He's a creator.
Fair or not, it’s the perception.
Whether or not that perception is reality will play out beginning in October when this version of the Jazz gets together for training camp.
Here’s a closer look at how the 2013-14 Jazz roster is shaping up:
POINT GUARD: For the fourth-straight year, the Jazz will have a different starting point guard to begin the season. Move over former All-Stars Deron Williams, Devin Harris and Mo Williams, this is now Trey Burke’s team. The 2013 national player of the year struggled at summer league, but his new team believes he has the talent, competitiveness and leadership to be a standout playmaker in an offense that will rely on more pick-and-rolls than it has in recent seasons. That's why Utah traded the 14th and 21st picks for the floor general Minnesota selected ninth overall.
Burke, considered this draft class' top point guard, will have his work cut out for him — and not just to improve his 24 percent shooting in Orlando. Leading Michigan to the NCAA championship is one thing; having success on a nightly basis against Western Conference point guards Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Ricky Rubio, Ty Lawson and Goran Dragic is a whole 'nother thing.
The Jazz made a somewhat surprising move by signing free agent veteran John Lucas III to help back up and mentor Burke instead of bringing back Jamaal Tinsley. Don’t be shocked if Alec Burks sees time at the point — especially against bigger guards. Barring a shift in plans, draft-night acquisition Raul Neto will play in Spain this year.
SHOOTING GUARD: The popular thought after the 2012-13 season ended was that Randy Foye was one of the free agents certain to be brought back. He set multiple 3-point-shooting records and was considered a good locker room presence.
The Jazz had other plans.
Thank God! Along with Jefferson he was the one that most needed to go.
Technically, those who believed Foye would be re-signed were correct. However, he was then traded to Denver as part of a three-team deal that resulted in Utah obtaining sharpshooter Brandon Rush along with Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, two unprotected first-round picks and three second-round selections.
Rush is rehabbing from ACL surgery in January — after his knee was injured the second game of the season in November — and he will be a regular if healthy.
This will be the season Burks, the projected starter, gets his chance to shine after playing second or third fiddle to Raja Bell and Foye his first two years.
"That's what I come into the NBA every year to do — start," Burks said at the Orlando Pro Summer League. "I'm not going to set my goals any lower. I want to start."
"That opportunity's there," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin admitted.
Undrafted shooting guard Ian Clark, the Belmont standout who was named MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League, will officially become a member of the Jazz this week. He also could shoot and defend his way into the mix.
SMALL FORWARD: With the return of Hayward, this is Utah's most solidified position. Interestingly, the fourth-year pro is the only player on the Jazz roster who averaged double-figure scoring last year in the NBA.
Hayward’s play last week at Team USA’s minicamp showed he’s more than able to hold his own against top-level competition. His stats don’t tell the full story, either, as the 6-foot-8 swingman can be a two-way factor.
Jazz big man Derrick Favors voiced his confidence in Hayward’s offensive abilities: “I think he can take on that role of being the leading scorer on the team.”
The Jazz have two enigmatic players behind Hayward. Marvin Williams struggled in his first season in Utah, and it’s uncertain when he’ll be back from his offseason Achilles' heel surgery (projected return is December).
Jazz fans would’ve been ecstatic to get Richard Jefferson four years ago when he was coming off of averaging 22.6 ppg (2007-08) and 19.6 ppg (2008-09). But the 33-year-old only scored 3.1 points an outing in a non-role with Golden State in 2012-13.
That's a fast decline! He should be good to have around the young guys anyway. Finals experience.
POWER FORWARD: Favors has been patiently biding his time behind Paul Millsap since being traded to Utah in 2011 as part of the D-Will deal. The 6-foot-10 big man is more than eager to step up now. He’s worked harder this offseason than ever after being encouraged to work on his physical shape and leadership skills at exit meetings in April.
“They (Jazz management) challenged me,” he said, “to be a better player, come in as a leader and just be ready to go from the jump.”
While Favors has the capability of being a monster in the paint, the Jazz might have a huge drop when he goes to the bench. The 7-foot Biedrins is the likely backup at power forward, and he is coming off of a year in which he scored a grand total of 24 points for Golden State.
Biedrins at the 4?
To avoid further tank accusations, the Jazz can only hope the Latvian big man recreates his double-double season of 2008-09 when he put up averages of 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds a night.
They won't play him enough to do it. He can still rebound and block shots. If they can get him shooting 60% from the field again and decent at the line they'll have done something.
Jeremy Evans, who’s been with the Jazz longer than any player this side of Hayward, could also work his way into steady playing time in both forward spots. The lengthy 6-9 player’s offensive game is gaining more confidence, and he simply befuddles opponents with his athleticism.
CENTER: This will be the Jazz’s youngest position, seeing as 21-year-old Enes Kanter is going to get his opportunity to step out of Al Jefferson’s shadow and play a major role.
Kanter’s health is a concern, however, due to the season-ending shoulder surgery he underwent last spring. The 6-11 center’s rehab continues to progress — he’s ahead of schedule by all accounts — but it’ll be on Kanter to work all the harder to get his basketball game to move forward once he’s back in full shape.
French big Rudy Gobert, the 7-foot-1 center with a 7-foot-9 wingspan, showed promising glimpses at summer league. While he’s certain to cause opposing offenses grief, the 21-year-old has a limited offensive game and could find life difficult against bulkier post players.
Looks like he'll be able to set screens and hit the offensive boards which makes him a perfect fit in the Utah offense.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Jazz bring in another big man — via a trade or a fall-camp signee.
Need another vet.
Despite the funky roster makeup — one that again has a bunch of contracts that will or could expire next summer — Favors and Hayward both said they’re excited to begin playing.
"It’s going to be a challenge, for sure," Hayward said. "We’re going to have to learn from our mistakes and try not to make them again and again."
"We’ve just got to come in and work harder," Favors added. "Obviously, we’re going to have to adjust, but it should be fun. It’ll be exciting."
Zach Lowe: Lots of people around league remain mystified Utah, especially, didn't act more aggressively in pursuing Harden. Twitter @ZachLowe_NBA
They don't know Utah and O'Conner was still the GM not Lindsay I believe. Easy to 2nd guess now but giving Harden a max deal was no given with what he'd done thus far. He would be a great fit in the flex. In retrospect I'd probably give up anyone but Kanter for him so they could have definitely offered better prospects but not the guaranteed lottery pick they got..
I was under the impression that OKC wanted picks? If the Jazz offered Favors then they'd be coming into the same situation again where Favors needs an extension, but they're only $5 million under the tax line they don't want to go over. At least in 2-3 years if Lamb and their picks pan out they'll have Perkins gone to free up more $.
Why he just bought a home in the mountains above Salt Lake City: "I’m still a Southern guy. I’m not a big city guy. I still like my personal space."
That could bode well in keeping him around.
— On his mindset with Team USA: “They want to see a big guy who’s going to come out here and direct traffic, pick up on a lot mistakes that the guards are making — a defensive-minded big guy. I wasn’t trying to come out here and put on a scoring clinic.”
The big question surrounding the athletic big man this summer revolves around how much money he’ll make over the course of the next four or five seasons in Utah. Will he be a max player? Will Utah wait until next offseason to re-sign him?
They better wait if it's max. At 10-12 they might have to roll the dice and hope he lives up to the hype because he could be looking at 12-15 come next summer I'd think.
While he’s letting his agent deal with contract talk with Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, Favors is focusing on trying to get rings instead of dollar bills.
“If I don’t get nothing else out of my career, I want to win a championship,” Favors said. “I’ve got goals of being an All-Star. At the end of my career, I want to give that speech — that Hall of Fame speech. That’s one of my biggest goals. But if I don’t get any of those, I at least want to win a championship.”
By the way, Favors went to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., with his South Atlanta High School team, the 2009 Georgia Class 3A state champion, but he’s never actually heard one of the enshrinement speeches.
“I don’t want to listen to one,” he said. “The first one I listen to, I want it to be mine.”
Even so, Favors has gotten an earful from someone who has delivered an emotion-filled Hall of Fame speech. So far this offseason, the fourth-year pro has worked out twice with Malone, who’s added part-time Jazz big man coach to his lengthy resume.
“They’ve been intense,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of the Malone-Favors workouts. “They’ve been really good for both guys.”
Malone’s return to the Jazz organization has been well-publicized. One of the more interesting aspects of the coach Mailman situation is that Favors reached out to management about getting in contact with the NBA’s all-time second-leading scorer.
“I was just at home thinking, ‘Karl Malone played here. Why not?’” Favors said. “I (thought) the worst they can do is just say, ‘No, he can’t come.’ I just asked to see if they can make it happen. I didn’t expect to work out with him. I just wanted to talk, pick his brain or whatever, but we started working out with each other.”
Jazz brass — already impressed by Favors’ willingness to improve on many levels, including in media interviews — was thrilled to accommodate him once Malone agreed to the arrangement.
“It really shows that he wants to work to get better,” Corbin said. “He wants to (learn from) the guys that played the position, like Karl, and understand how to get the knowledge and help his game grow, especially on the offensive end.”
Favors tweaked his back during his USA Basketball participation last week and is taking a week off from his arduous summer training, but he hopes to get in more sessions with Malone this offseason, perhaps even in Ruston, La.
If nothing else, it’s helped him get into prime condition.
“This might sound crazy,” Favors said, “but the hardest thing was getting ready to work out with him because he wanted me to be in shape, be ready before he got there.”
While Favors continues to work on his mid-range jumper and refines a go-to move or two in the post — something that will come with increased playing time, he believes — the young big said Malone has given him great ideas.
What he’s learned most: “how to approach the game, how to outthink your opponent, just all those mental things.”
Favors smiled while admitting he beat Malone in a game of H-O-R-S-E — “He don’t want me to tell nobody” — but he admiringly described the recently turned 50-year-old as a “still strong guy.”
“I think,” he added, “he could come out here and still hold his own."
Leading the youth movement
Favors knows he’ll need to more than hold his own, mentally and physically, now that Paul Millsap has headed to his backup’s childhood home to play for the Hawks and Al Jefferson has signed with Charlotte.
That was the message they each had for Favors on their way out of Utah: “They both just told me, ‘It’s (your) team now; it’s time to take over; do your thing out there. You’ve been learning from us the past two or three years; now it’s time to play.’”
To sum up Favors’ reaction to that sentiment: FINALLY!
The beginning of his NBA career was filled with a hope for quickly establishing himself in the league and the dreaded anticipation of being traded, something that was rumored for much of his rookie season leading up to that midseason deal.
“I was just waiting for my chance to prove myself,” Favors said.
After being dealt to Utah, Favors’ first thought was, “Utah. Wow.” Once he arrived in Utah, he quickly discovered that the Jazz had two veteran big men — Millsap and Jefferson — who led the team in scoring and minutes played.
Less wow. More waiting.
“It was frustrating at first,” he admitted. “Then I had to sit down and just realize that these two guys are good and I’ve just got to learn as much as I can from them, but it was frustrating at first.”
He's played more minutes than he had in NJ.
In 2011, Favors began the lockout-shortened season as the starting power forward ahead of Millsap. That, however, lasted two games before he returned to a reserve role that continued through the 2012-13 campaign.
That meant more waiting for the young man hoping to win a championship and become an All-Star and Hall of Famer.
On one hand, Favors understood. He even admitted, “I knew Paul was better than me.” But the Olympic team candidate and 2012 NBA “Rising Star” selection likes sitting on the bench about as much as he enjoyed the lower-back injury that left him feeling “mad as hell” and spoiled his Team USA scrimmage in Vegas last Thursday.
“I still keep it with me as motivation, just deep down in me as motivation,” said Favors, who's averaged 8.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 23.4 minutes per game in his first three seasons.
“I was thankful and blessed to play behind (Millsap and Jefferson) because those two (were) great guys and I learned a lot from them, but I still use it as motivation. … I’m not going to let that happen to me again.”
This won’t come as a shock to fans familiar with Corbin’s tendency to play veterans over younger guys, but the Jazz coach believes Favors’ career will benefit from biding his time behind Millsap.
“I think it’s always helped guys to have to earn whatever they get,” Corbin said. “They don’t like it, but the ones who use it right as motivation and continue to work, I think it can be a great thing for them going down the road.”
I agree with Ty. I still think Millsap should be there fighting for minutes with them. Handing Burke the keys when he isn't ready isn't doing him any favors.
Andrew Gruman: #Bucks have officially signed second-round pick Nate Wolters Twitter
Frank Madden: Bucks roster now at 16 with Wolters signing--will have to get down to 15 by the regular season. Twitter @brewhoop
Another team that might need to dump someone on the Jazz. Looks like Ridnour might be the only expiring contract and he can't be traded yet because they just acquired him. Hard to say about guarantees. Some of the young guys maybe could be expiring if you don't pick up their option for next year.
27. Jazz (43-39). Trey Burke, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter could be part of a good team in a few years, but this season they will learn some hard lessons. Burke is going to be a lot of people’s call for Rookie of the Year.
That's a franchise player anyway. Doubt anyone has Burke as ROTY anymore. No mention of G their most proven player.
This is one of the toughest schedules I have seen. The youngsters are going to be tested early and often. The back to backs are brutal. The travel at times is horrendous and there are numerous serious tests on the schedule.
Start at the beginning. The Jazz open with OKC before playing their first road game against a poor Phoenix team and Jeff Hornacek. However, the Jazz play Friday the 1st in Phoenix and the next night at home v. Houston before flying East for a 4 games in 5 night stretch that includes Brooklyn and Chicago.
After that dip into the fire the Jazz schedule evens out for the Jazz. However, the next stretch is one of the toughest I have seen.
The Jazz play the 11th of December in Sacramento then go to Denver for one game before returning home for a back to back with San Antonio before leaving the next day to go East for 9 days. Jazz will have one night at home from Jan Dec 10th to Dec 24th and it will be a game day. Players and staff will not have dinner at home from Dec 8th to Christmas Eve.
January is pleasant with only two back to backs and 8 of the 13 games at home.
February is equally as soft as January in regards to home and road, 7 home games and 5 road but the back to backs are brutal. In Dallas with a game the next night at home v. Miami, In LA with a home game the next day v Philadelphia all in a span of 6 days. Add on an at Portland with Minnesota home the next day.
When February closes the Jazz get hit with a scheduling 2 by 4. They go on a 6 game 9 day road trip that spans Cleveland, Indiana, Milwaukee, Washington, New York and Philadelphia.
Then comes “the have these guys grown” stretch. The Jazz play the Clippers, Spurs, Rockets and Grizzlies in a 4 games stretch from the 14th of March to the 19th of March. That will tell us if they have improved at all because all of those teams will be battling for home court in the West.
I have said this season will be interesting to watch how the young players deal with adversity. The three biggest tests will be
1 – Opening 4 games in 5 nights road trip that includes going through customs on the final night.
2 – Late Jan and Feb has home games to be won can they gain momentum - Minnesota, Washington, Sacramento, Toronto, Philadelphia, Boston and Phoenix.
3 – The aforementioned murder’s row in March. First is the Clippers, Spurs, Rockets and Grizzlies combination and then it is followed by Memphis, New Orleans, OKC, New York and Portland.
What a start- OKC on opening night and then Houston with Dwight Howard making his first appearance on Saturday night. Hello season. The two favorites to win the West in the opening two games of the season. Heck, the entire opening month of November is a rundown of the best in the West, Denver, New Orleans, San Antonio and Golden State make up the next 4 games and with the off-season moves they all made that could be 6 playoff teams in the opening 6 home games. It doesn’t slow down after that, Derrick Rose makes his first appearance in over a year in SLC and the final home game of November is Jeff Hornacek’s return. Is it possible every game in November is a must see?
Will Jazz fans see Kobe Bryant coming back from his Achilles? The first trip from the Lakers is Dec 27th and the 2nd game is April 14th the final home game of the year. Seems fair to anticipate that Kobe could be ready for both of those games.
Lots of reunions, Jeff Hornacek returns as a head coach on November 29th, Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver make their only visit on March 10th, Al Jefferson and Charlotte stop by on Dec 30th, Deron Williams plays the first game after the all-star break in SLC on Feb 19th and Carlos Boozer and Chicago comes into town on November 25th .
LOCKE TICKET PACKAGES
One game a month that is all I have time for
OKC in the opener in October, Derrick Rose is back on the floor when Chicago comes on November 25th, December 14th the Spurs are in town and it is worth seeing in person, if you haven’t seen Ricky Rubio then my January choice is Minnesota on Jan 21st. February is easy, the Heat are in town the 8th of Feb, in March as terrific as Chris Paul is to see in person the Hawks have every Jazz fans favorite players so see Millsap, DeMarre and Kyle on March 10th and in April the Blazers and Damian Lillard are in town on the 11th.
5 games I have to see package
OKC in the opener again, the first night with the jumbotron and Kevin Durant
Nov 18th v. Golden State – the addition of Iguodala and watching Steph Curry in person is awesome
Feb 8th – LeBron and the World Champion Heat – what else needs to be said
March 14th – Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers
April 14th – Lakers and Kobe – How many more times can we see Kobe and I don’t care what state the Lakers are in beating the Lakers is always awesome
The first three road games the Jazz play are all against NBA rookie head coaches, Phoenix, Brooklyn and Boston.
Of the Jazz 4 road games in LA (2 Clippers and 2 Lakers) all of them are a part of a back to back, with 3 of them have the road game on the back end of the back to back and one where Jazz play the Lakers and the next night are home against Philadelphia.
Jazz have lots of games against the same opponent without much time in between. They play Phoenix and Minnesota in back to backs. They play the Kings twice in 5 days. They play the Lakers, Pelicans and Grizzlies twice in a week, and Golden State twice in 9 days. I will keep a close eye on how are guys do in these games where teams scouting will be extra sharp. Will be interesting to see how our players adjust.