Ryan Smith

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Mitchell, Wolves, Nuggets

After evening their first-round playoff matchup with a gutty 100-99 Game 4 win over the Mavericks in Utah, the Jazz proceeded to get blown out in a blistering 102-77 Game 5 loss on the road. Tony Jones of The Athletic considers the listless loss to be just the newest indignity for a solid squad with a patchy postseason record.

“Our mindset, it was disappointing,” All-Star center Rudy Gobert said. “I felt like we didn’t respond to their energy and their intensity. I felt like we didn’t respond to their focus. They just outplayed us.”

Jones notes that the Jazz have struggled all year through erratic performances and an easy susceptibility to tougher teams. Though Jones considers Utah talented enough to win at least its next home contest, Game 6, he wonders if the team will be able to overcome its issues to defeat a hungry Dallas club.

“We have to do a better job of moving the basketball and playing the right way,” said Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic. “I thought we played well enough offensively. I just thought we had to do a better job of moving the basketball.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Should they lose early in these playoffs, the Jazz face an uncertain summer, and could move on some of their top players. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, all signs points to Utah owner Ryan Smith, in his second season with the team, wanting to hold onto All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell over any other core team personnel.
  • The Timberwolves have struggled to defend second-year Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane, who has been shooting lights-out from long range during the two teams’ first-round series, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Hine notes that Minnesota’s priority on defense has been stopping All-Star point guard Ja Morant, leaving Bane open. “Sometimes you can’t cover it all,” Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said following the team’s 119-118 victory in Game 4. “We got to just find him a little quicker. He does a really good job of moving into the right space when you’re in rotation. He’s got a quick release and deep range. I think sometimes his range catches our guys off guard a little bit.” Bane has shot 18-of-35 from long range across the last three games in the series. After tonight, Memphis leads Minnesota 3-2 in their series.
  • The Nuggets, with their backs against the wall down 3-1 to the Warriors, hope to extend their first-round series employing the same chippy fight they had during their recent two-game home stand, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “We’re not backing down from anybody,” Denver forward Aaron Gordon said at a team practice this week. The club amped up the contact against Golden State in two physical contests at Ball Arena. “I would say our physicality definitely improved from Games 1 and 2 to 3 and 4,” reserve Nuggets center DeMarcus Cousins said of the team’s tactical shift. “One thing we did know about ourselves was we were the reason we were losing those (first three) games.”

Northwest Notes: Ainge, Jazz, Hyland, Nowell, Wolves

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.”

Jazz Notes: Player Development, Conley, Niang, Wade

The Jazz‘s player development track record is getting hard to ignore, according to Ben Dowsett of FiveThirtyEight.com, who points not to stars like Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert, but to veterans like Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, and – most recently – Royce O’Neale.

Dowsett contends that the mid-career leaps those players have made in Utah are in large part due to head coach Quin Snyder‘s developmental program. For his part, Snyder is reluctant to take credit, suggesting that the players themselves are the ones responsible for their positive strides.

“It’s a credit to the players,” Snyder said. “Sometimes you can be content, especially if you’re successful in this league and have established yourself, to do what you do, so to speak.”

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • After Mike Conley missed several key games in last season’s playoffs due to a hamstring injury, the Jazz are doing all they can in 2021/22 to make sure he’s fully healthy for the postseason, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. That includes limiting Conley’s minutes and sitting him in certain back-to-back sets, which the veteran guard is still getting used to. “I think the plan is going to pay dividends at the end,” Conley said. “I don’t like sitting games at all. I definitely prefer to play. But if it’s going to give me a better chance at health in the long run, I’m all for it. Especially if it’s going to help the team.”
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Jones explores how Georges Niang, who returned to Utah on Tuesday as a member of the Sixers, developed into a reliable NBA player with the Jazz, noting that Niang still holds the franchise in high regard. “Being in Utah, it took me from a young man to an adult,” he said. “I can’t be thankful enough to the Jazz organization, and I had four great years in Utah.”
  • McKay Coppins of The Deseret News takes an in-depth look at the impact new team owner Ryan Smith has had on the Jazz and the greater aspirations he has for the state of Utah.
  • In a Q&A with Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Dwyane Wade spoke about being a part-owner of the Jazz and said that his role with the franchise will be “forever evolving” as he learns more about the business side of basketball.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Lillard, Simmons, Murray

Trade rumors have been swirling around Damian Lillard since the Trail Blazers were knocked out of the playoffs, but backcourt partner CJ McCollum believes Lillard is “all in” for the new season, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Appearing on a podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, McCollum discussed Lillard, new coach Chauncey Billups and several other topics.

“I don’t want to speak for him, but having a close relationship, he and I talk every day, or every other day, from sharing memes to sending videos to each other to serious talks about our season, what it takes to win, what it’s going to takes to win a championship, I have a pretty good sense of where he’s at,” McCollum said of Lillard. “And I think his goal is to win a championship. I think, at the end of the day, that’s what we all want. We want to put ourselves in the best position to win a championship. But I mean, he’s all in. I think at this stage I can say that he’s all in. He just wants to win at the end of the day.”

Lillard held a press conference last month while preparing for the Olympics to deny a report that he was about to ask Portland’s front office for a trade. Although he hasn’t demanded a deal, Lillard has communicated his desire to upgrade the roster to give the Blazers a better chance to compete for a title.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Michael Rand of The Star Tribune examines the latest rumors about the Timberwolves‘ interest in Ben Simmons, concluding that Minnesota would like to acquire Simmons but doesn’t have the assets to make a deal. Rand suggests an offer of D’Angelo Russell, Jaden McDaniels and at least one first-round pick, which he concedes still may not be enough to interest the Sixers. Daryl Morey, Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations, is looking for a star in return, so the Wolves might need to get other teams involved to have a chance at Simmons.
  • March is a “reasonable target date” to expect Nuggets guard Jamal Murray to start playing again, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. That would be 11 months since his surgery for a torn ACL. Denver targeted a scoring guard in the draft to make up for the loss of Murray, Singer adds, and came away with Bones Hyland.
  • Jazz owner Ryan Smith tells Ben Anderson of KSL Sports that fans shouldn’t read anything into his golf outings with former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. There have been rumors that Ainge might be considered for a position in Utah’s front office, but Smith says they have been playing together for a long time. “I’ve played golf with Danny Ainge for 20 years,” Smith said. “I know the media likes to write about it like there’s this thing going on with Danny, but Danny has been a mentor and a friend for 20 years.”

Jazz Rumors: Lindsey, Snyder, Azubuike, Wade, Ainge, Battier

Dennis Lindsey‘s transition from his executive VP of basketball operations position with the Jazz into an advisory role was framed as Lindsey’s call, but it was more of an ownership decision, according to Andy Larsen and Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

As Larsen and Walden explain in an in-depth story, new Jazz owner Ryan Smith is making some changes to the front office — director of pro player personnel David Fredman was also told this week that his contract isn’t being renewed.

One factor in the decision to reassign Lindsey was a “long-running disconnect” between the executive and head coach Quin Snyder, per the Tribune’s report. According to Larsen and Walden, Lindsey and Snyder had numerous disagreements both on and off the court, including not seeing eye to eye on rotation and roster decisions. Snyder – along with many members of the front office – were frustrated by the selection of Udoka Azubuike in the first round of the 2020 draft, per Larsen and Walden.

Given Utah’s success during the 2020/21 season, Lindsey and Snyder were on better terms during the last year, but several people in the organization still felt that this week’s announcement reflected a feud being settled. “Quin won,” one source told The Tribune.

Here’s more on the Jazz’s front office shakeup:

  • While Lindsey is now an advisor in the Jazz’s front office, there’s an expectation that he’ll seek a job with another team, according to Larsen and Walden.
  • Dwyane Wade has “added his voice” to front office discussions, but isn’t taking a day-to-day role in basketball and roster decisions, per Larsen and Walden.
  • If former Celtics executive Danny Ainge joins the Jazz, it will likely be in an advisory role, says Tony Jones of The Athletic.
  • Jones, Larsen, and Walden all say more front office additions are expected. Multiple reporters, including Jones, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald suggest that Wade’s former teammate Shane Battier is one candidate to join the basketball operations department. Battier worked in the Heat’s front office from 2017-21, but recently left that position and is now just a consultant for Miami.

Dwyane Wade Joins Jazz Ownership Group

Former NBA star Dwyane Wade has purchased a minority ownership stake in the Jazz, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that Wade plans to “take an active role in the franchise and region.” While it’s unclear how sizeable Wade’s share is, Wojnarowski says that NBA rules prevent an ownership stake from being smaller than 1%.

The Jazz confirmed Wade’s investment in a press release.

Wade is joining an ownership group led by Ryan Smith, who purchased a controlling stake in the Jazz from the Miller family in 2020. According to Wojnarowski, Wade met Smith shortly after his retirement as a player in 2019, and the two became fast friends.

“It wasn’t like we wanted more partners; that wasn’t what we were trying to do,” Smith told ESPN. “I want to work with Dwyane on and off the court, on the business side, and so do our partners — because of who he is as a human being and what he’s accomplished. Those are the kinds of people you want around.”

Wade, who won three championships as a member of the Heat, has long talked about his interest in joining an NBA ownership group. While Miami would be an obvious fit, Wade didn’t say whether he and the Heat had serious discussions about the possibility, per Wojnarowski.

Heat owner Micky Arison said in a pair of tweets that he and Wade had previously discussed the idea of having him join the team’s ownership group, but that the veteran guard wasn’t prepared to commit at that time. Arison wished Wade “good luck and much success” with the Jazz, adding that he’ll always consider him a “Heat lifer.”

“The respect that I have for that organization will not go anywhere, the love that I have for the (Heat) fans — that goes nowhere,” Wade said. “But this is about the next phase of my life as an investor, a businessman, an entrepreneur. For me, this is an opportunity to grow.”

Wade envisions having a role in the basketball side of the franchise, according to Wojnarowski, who notes that the former Heat star is good friends with Donovan Mitchell. Participating in free agent meetings or counseling individual players are ways that Wade could become involved with the club, Woj adds. The 39-year-old also hopes to contribute more than just his basketball knowledge.

“Unfortunately, people in my community don’t get this opportunity, and I do not take it lightly to have this opportunity,” Wade said. “To make real change, this is where you have to be — at the top — and Ryan knows that. I’m thankful for him, and I know too that I bring a lot to this partnership outside of just my basketball knowledge and skills.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Jazz Roster, Saunders, Smith, MPJ

Despite an impressively deep roster that includes 2020 All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz roster still needs a player who can defend scoring guards, per Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Nets point guard Kyrie Irving exploited this weakness when he scored 29 points in 29 minutes against the Jazz in a lopsided 130-96 Brooklyn victory on Tuesday night.

Current go-to Jazz wing defender Royce O’Neale is solid, but Tjarks contends that O’Neale lacks the athleticism necessary to contend with high-level guards like Irving. New addition Shaquille Harrison is another defensive perimeter option.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders is excited for the development of No. 1 draft pick Anthony Edwards out of Georgia, whose understated production (5 points, 4 assists) in a 123-116 Sunday loss to the Nuggets masked his game-reading improvement. “Even if it wasn’t your highest-scoring game, that was your best game as an NBA player because of the way he was reading defenses, the things that we’ve been trying to fast track for him over the last month,” Saunders said of the rookie swingman, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.
  • New Jazz owner Ryan Smith spoke with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on his podcast the Woj Pod, and indicated that he has some ideas for how he would like to help Utah build on its recent playoff appearances (h/t to Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune via Twitter). “Not a lot’s been broken,” Smith said. “But I would just say I think we’re gonna have to get a little more aggressive as we think about how to take this to the next level.”
  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. will be clearing the league’s health and safety protocols-necessitated quarantine tonight and should be available for Denver tomorrow against the Mavericks, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Ryan Smith Officially Becomes Majority Owner Of Jazz Following NBA Approval

Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith and his wife Ashley are officially the new majority owners of the Jazz, the team announced today in a press release. Smith was able to formally complete the purchase of a majority stake in the franchise after being unanimously approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors.

“Ryan Smith is a forward-thinking, community-minded entrepreneur and business leader who will be a fantastic addition to our league,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, following the Board of Governors’ vote. “As a life-long fan of the Utah Jazz and more recently as one of their key marketing partners, Ryan has demonstrated his deep commitment to the Jazz and the Utah community and there’s no doubt he will bring that same level of dedication to the operation of the team.”

Gail Miller and the Miller family reached an agreement in October to sell a majority share of the Jazz to Smith, with a valuation of $1.66 billion. The now-official transaction also included Vivint Arena, the Salt Lake City Stars, and management operations of the Salt Lake Bees, a Triple-A baseball team.

The Millers have retained a minority stake in the team, while tech entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes and venture capitalist Ryan Sweeney have also been announced as minority owners, according to the Jazz.

Smith, a Utah native, told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that he was “really close” to making a bid to buy the Timberwolves before Ashley objected.

“With my wife, something wasn’t right. She was putting her foot down,” Ryan said. “She was like, ‘You know we’re Jazz fans, right? That’s what we do, and I’m not moving.’ She doesn’t put her foot down very often, but it was a nice reminder that I was kind of getting caught up in this other world because I liked the business side of it.”

As MacMahon writes, part of the agreement calls for the Jazz to remain in Utah, but that was never a question for Smith, who has been a lifelong fan of the franchise and had courtside seats before reaching an agreement to purchase a controlling share of the team.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Timberwolves, Nuggets

The sale agreement that will transfer controlling interest of the Jazz from the Miller family to Ryan Smith is a “seismic change” for the franchise, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. However, it remains to be seen whether the average fan will notice the impact of the change in team ownership.

As Jones points out, the coming offseason will be a good early test to see how Smith intends to run the team. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are both eligible for extensions, while Jordan Clarkson is a free agent and the Jazz would also like to fortify their roster with another solid rotation player, if possible.

Re-signing Clarkson and using the mid-level exception on an outside free agent may put Utah into tax territory, which is something the Miller family generally avoided — but if the Jazz are willing to go into the tax in Smith’s first year at the helm, it would bode well for his willingness to spend going forward.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The sale price for the Jazz ($1.66 billion) should be encouraging to Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who is exploring the sale of his own franchise. However, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst observes in an appearance on Darren Wolfson The Scoop podcast (audio clip), Taylor hasn’t wavered from his stance that any buyer must keep the team in Minnesota, which will limit his ability to maximize the value of the team in any sale.
  • The Timberwolves finished the 2019/20 season just slightly over the tax line as a result of their deadline trade, a source confirms to Dane Moore of News Talk 830 WCCO (Twitter link). However, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets, president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas is confident the team will stay out of the tax in 2020/21, reducing the likelihood of repeater penalties down the road.
  • The Nuggets are fairly set at point guard with Jamal Murray and Monte Morris under contract, but they shouldn’t rule out the possibility of drafting another one at No. 22 if certain prospect – such as Cole Anthony – are still on the board, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Blazers, Miller, Smith

With Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, and Mason Plumlee all facing free agency this fall, the Nuggets front office may need to look outside the organization to fill newly-opened gaps in their frontcourt. Kendra Andrews of The Athletic assesses some big men for Denver to target this offseason.

Thunder center Nerlens Noel, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, and Suns center Aron Baynes are all free agents who could be solid fits at center spelling Nikola Jokic, in Andrews’ view, while Pacers center Myles Turner, entering the second year of a four-season, $80MM contract, could be available in a trade.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Danny Leroux of The Athletic previews the offseason salary cap situation for the Trail Blazers, observing that team president Neil Olshey may have to make decisions on team depth, several veteran free agents on the team, and whether or not to offer a contract extension to fourth-year power forward Zach Collins, who will otherwise become a restricted free agent in 2021.
  • Having agreed to sell controlling interest in the Jazz to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith, former majority owner Gail Miller will retain a 20% stake in the franchise, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets.
  • Though the Jazz will miss the Miller family, who owned the team for 35 years, an excitement is building for young new Jazz owner Ryan Smith, according to Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune. Larsen writes that Smith is considered more willing to spend than the Miller clan has been over the decades, which could help Utah weather the storm of financial uncertainty caused by COVID-19 complications that are expected to restrict revenues in the 2020/21 season.