Budding star Donovan Mitchell led the Utah Jazz to a stellar 52-20 record last season. That was good enough for the best record in a tough Western Conference, but injuries stifled them late in the season and playoffs.
Mitchell suffered a high ankle sprain late in the season and missed the opening game of the first round playoff series. Spida returned with the fury in Game 2 and the Jazz won four straight to close out Ja Morant and the upstart Memphis Grizzlies squad.
Ring Kings Sitting Courtside
With new minority owner Dwayne Wade sitting courtside, it looked as if this Jazz team was primed to make a run. That came to a screeching halt in the second-round after going up 2-0 on the Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers. Not since the late 90’s — when Hall of Famers Karl Malone and John Stockton guided the Jazz to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances — has the “Delta Center” now called “Vivint Arena” been so raucous.
All of that optimism turned to pain as the Jazz lost four straight.
The blown series loss to the Clippers was especially painful for “Spida” Mitchell, who believes he can be the lead guy on a championship contender.
Wade believes it too. Analysts have likened Mitchell to Wade since his rookie season, and now they both have the chance to help each other nightly in Salt Lake City. The three-time NBA champion revealed in a June interview that Mitchell is the main reason he wanted ownership in the Jazz. The two players have forged a deep friendship off the court.
“He’s already 24 years old and he’s got a lot more growth to do and he’s already a critical player in our league,” Wade said in a June GQ interview. “So, I’m excited about giving back whatever I’ve learned to him so his career will be greater than mine ever was.”
Wade evens offers Mitchell some in-game championship advice.
Last year’s loss has to haunt them as they embark on a new season. The Jazz were in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency and in that series loss they fell apart. Defensively they’re led by the “Stifle Tower,” aka Rudy , who’s won three of the past four Defensive Player of the Year awards (2018, 2019 and 2021).
He anchors the defense and the entire roster gets at it.
MCC (Mitchell, Conley, Clarkson)
Head coach Quin Snyder has installed an offensive system that spreads the floor and looks to find the open shooters. Mitchell, Mike Conley and Sixth Man of The Year Jordan Clarkson, aka “The Microwave,” have more freedom. They go get buckets. A healthy Conley will go a long way in determining just how successful this Jazz team can be.
The Jazz have less talent than some of the teams they will beat out in the Western Conference this season. The cohesiveness of Synder’s unit and his ability to push the right buttons always makes Utah dangerous.
Face Of The Jazz
Mitchell, a New York native, is the perfect face for the Utah Jazz. He’s marketable, has a solid reputation, sticks to his beliefs and has a demeanor and competetive brilliance that is easy for any city to embrace.
— Overtime (@overtime) October 2, 2021
Plus, he’s all business. All the time. So the Jazz are always on the cusp of breaking through with Mitchell leading the charge. The West just gets tougher, but so does Utah. Maybe this is the season.