Fitting in. Helping your brothers out.
Of all the concerns the Jazz have for an upcoming run toward real contention in the West — and who knows, maybe a shot at a title — that is the part that is most critical. No longer is it what it used to be, back when the Jazz had mastered the singing-in-harmony-around-the-campfire component, but lacked offensive firepower. Now, it’s flipped, necessitating the putting of talented pieces together in such a firm and sometimes flexible way to make the whole greater than the sum of the individual parts.
That requires the mindset of Aristotle, who coached, I think, in the Greek League, from every corner of unselfishness and cooperation and a wide and thorough expanse of pro’s pro behavior.
Positive news: Those individual parts seem to know this, both the resident players and the newcomers. It’s the central reason some of the new guys signed with the Jazz.
Jeff Green, a veteran forward entering his 12th NBA season, his first in Utah, confirms the fact. The man has played in 860 games — in Seattle/OKC, Boston, Memphis, Los Angeles (Clippers), Orlando, Cleveland and Washington. He’s seen both ends, all ends, the highs and the lows, the egocentric and the generous, the good and the bad.
Now, he’s envisioning what could be a pinnacle, what could be collective selflessness, what could be great.
“I’m happy to be a part of this team,” he says. “With the personnel that they have, acquiring Mike [Conley], having Donovan [Mitchell], being the player that he is and growing to be, Joe [Ingles], Rudy [Gobert], it’s a great team. It’s a good team to be a part of.”
Those last two characteristics are, indeed, linked, he says.
In coming to that conclusion, Green asked around about the Jazz, and he studied the existing personnel, and the mindset of Quin Snyder. All of that led to his arrival.
What impressed him most about Snyder is: “Just the basketball mind that he has. You can tell how much he studies the craft of basketball. I’m a big I.Q., knowledge-of-the-game type of guy. The first 10 minutes of that conversation, he showcased that to me. That was a comfort for me choosing to come here.”
Ed Davis, a rawboned rebounder and defender who will take Derrick Favors’ old role, spelling Gobert at the 5, and perhaps, on some uncommon occasions, playing alongside him, concurs about Snyder.
“I knew Quin was a player’s coach,” he says. “That gave me the confidence in coming here that everything would be OK.”
Green questioned Snyder about how his philosophies would change, given the infusion of new players in the form of Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, himself, Davis, Emmanuel Mudiay, among others.
“He said he didn’t know, but it was going to change. Most coaches tend to stay the same. [But] you have to adjust to who’s on the team. It shows that he’s already looking forward, looking for ways to work this team.”
Green also talked with Conley, who gave him favorable reviews regarding the old and new version of the Jazz: “I asked him about Donovan and about some of the guys on a personal level, and he said, ‘It’s going to be great.’ I believe that. When the opportunity arose for me to come here, it was a no-brainer.”
Same with Davis, who previously had played with Conley. He says he was excited to join the Jazz: “I can adapt to any environment. Fitting in the locker room, I don’t even think about that. It will be an easy transition for me.”
Such responses from veterans like Green and Davis, who had options to go elsewhere, indicates a happy shift for the Jazz, that the efforts of Snyder and executives Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik, and the talent they already had in the fold, and the talent they continue to add, are altering the attitude of free agents around the league.
“At this point in my career, it’s not about picking any team, it’s about maximizing the years, maximizing the opportunity to win,” Green says. “What’s most important to me is winning. … I texted with Donovan [discussing] having this opportunity to be part of such a special team, a team that’s unselfish, with no egos. That’s rare, an organization that’s run the right way, having a city that supports you every night, that’s rare. I wanted to be a part of something special.”
As Davis puts it, rather succinctly: “This is one of the respected teams in the league. … Always a winning environment. Never any bull---- coming from the organization.”
Green adds: “You have to sacrifice if you want to be great. … That’s what it’s about, when you want to play for something bigger than yourself. If we want to be a good team, it’s has to be about the team. Teams win a championship, it’s not one person. That’s the mindset you have to have. You have to help your brothers.”
Aristotle would have agreed.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.