Jazz owner Ryan Smith pitched Danny Ainge on the idea of taking on a role with the franchise during a recent trip to the Bahamas for Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge golf tournament, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon. The two men had discussions during the trip about the concept of Ainge coming aboard, then worked out a deal when they returned to Utah, resulting in the Jazz hiring Ainge as their CEO and alternate governor.
“I’ve never been ready to talk about this before, but Ryan and I had a chance to spend a lot of time together,” Ainge said, explaining that he took the last six months to spend time with family and decompress. “We hashed it out, and we were both excited about this opportunity. I think it was the timing more than anything.”
Ainge will oversee Utah’s basketball operations and will work closely with general manager Justin Zanik, who will continue to run the day-to-day operations. As Eric Walden and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune write, the team is enthusiastic about the idea of a “collaborative” approach to the front office and isn’t all that interested in establishing a linear hierarchy in which one person ultimately makes all the decisions.
“If you’re in the league, everyone knows to call Justin right now. I think that’s pretty clear,” Smith said. “(But) I think when it comes to decision-making, we’re the kind of culture where it doesn’t really work that way. … When it comes to that, you want to be right a lot more than you’re wrong, because some decisions aren’t clear. Bringing Danny on board helps increase our chances of getting that right.”
Sources close to Ainge told Tony Jones and Jared Weiss of The Athletic that the veteran executive always wanted a Jerry West-type role that would give him the flexibility to play plenty of golf and spend time with his grandchildren. He’ll work with the Jazz every day, but won’t be putting in the 16- and 18-hour days that he became accustomed to in Boston.
Here’s more from around the Northwest:
- Dan Clayton of Salt City Hoops, writing for The Salt Lake Tribune, provides a trade primer for the Jazz, examining the team’s needs, expendable assets, and possible targets.
- Nuggets guard Bones Hyland was held out of Wednesday’s game for a violation of team rules, but will be available on Friday in Atlanta, according to reports from Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports and Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter links).
- Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell has been out of the rotation for most of the season, but has appeared in the last there games and logged a season-high 15 minutes last Friday. Nowell is hoping that he can carve out a more regular role, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes. The stakes are particularly high for the 22-year-old, whose 2021/22 salary still isn’t fully guaranteed.
- Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at the chemistry that’s developing between the Timberwolves‘ two young franchise cornerstones, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. “If me and KAT just lock in here with each other, I feel like we will win so many more games,” Edwards said of his star teammate. “… He dominates, man. He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass, he can do everything. So playing with him makes my game a lot easier.”