With Rudy Gobert in Minnesota and Donovan Mitchell in Cleveland,
the air in Salt Lake City has that new car smell.
Whether it be a plethora of players or new head coach Will
Hardy, the Utah Jazz have brought a number of fresh faces this
offseason to clear the slate and start from scratch. Speaking on
Monday, Utah general manager Justin Zanik and executive Danny Ainge
spoke to the optimism they both have for the franchise.
"I think the fans can expect fun and excitment, energy," Ainge
told Jazz play-by-pay announcer
Craig Bolerjack. "I feel it in the gym already this summer.
There's so much enthusiasm. We have youth, we have two first-round
picks (one lottery pick)... I think there's a lot to be excited
“There’s this really good vibe and excitement in the gym,” Zanik
said. “It’s a really good work
environment. It’s a really good place to come to work.”
Though much of the attention in the city was on Collin Sexton
and Ochai Agbaji's opening press conference on Tuesday, Basketball
News had the chance to catch up with another one of Utah's
up-and-coming talents, Jarred Vanderbilt.
The 23-year-old was a key acquisition for the Jazz from
Minnesota for Gobert, particularly because he's coming off a career
season where he averaged 6.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals in
25.4 minutes per game in his first full year as a starter.
In the following Q&A, Vanderbilt shared his thoughts on
being a part of the big trade, the Jazz's direction, gaining more
experience as a player and what his next steps are.
How have you spent your summer? What kind of things have
you been working on?
Vanderbilt: "Just working on my overall game.
Doing a lot of finishing, a lot of shooting, a lot of
ball-handling. [I've been] watching a lot of film and just seeing
where I can grow on the court, and then also, just mentally.
Are you viewing this opportunity as a fresh start? What
are you hoping to bring?
Vanderbilt: "For sure. Any time you go to a new
team, it's a fresh start, it's change and it's an opportunity to
continue to grow. That's what I'm looking forward to."
It’s a brand new beginning for the organization as well.
What have Will Hardy and the front office said to you since the
Vanderbilt: "That we're just building something
special. It's an opportunity for me and them as well just to grow
individually, as a team and as an organization. It's a fresh start
for everybody — new staff, new coaches, a lot of new players. So
right now, we're just getting to know each other."
In what ways are you hoping to grow?
Vanderbilt: "In every way. Being able to grow
my offensive game as well. Being able to become a better finisher,
better shooter, better defender. Pretty much just [getting] better
in every aspect of my game. I feel like I've made the jump every
single year that I've been in the NBA, so I just want to continue
that upward path."
Is it easier on you personally having Malik Beasley
there? You guys have been teammates your whole career everywhere
Vanderbilt: "Yeah, it's always easier when
you're traded with a familiar face. I've been with Beas since I
started. We've been on three teams together and pretty much have
been in every single trade together as well, so it's always good to
have a familiar face and some familiarity with a player that you've
been around and played with.
"We joked about it the other day. We were playing pickup and we
did a pick-and-roll. He threw a lob to me, and he was like, 'Yeah,
that's that three-team connection' (laughs). We definitely have a
lot of chemistry together just from playing for so long. We've been
playing together almost five years, so we've just got that
You only played against Collin Sexton once in school,
but you’ve met a few times in the pros. What are your impressions
of him? Have you guys talked?
Vanderbilt: "He's a dawg. He's a great dude.
I've been knowing him since high school. He's been a super
competitor. One thing about me, I love dawgs. I love guys that like
to compete, and ever since the first day I met him, I noticed that
about him. He's been an extreme competitor, hates to lose, and he
just competes every time down. I can go to war with a guy like that
any time of the day."
For you, it seems you’ve really established yourself the
last couple years as far as solidifying yourself as a legitimately
impactful NBA player. In what ways have you matured, and what’s
helped the most?
Vanderbilt: "I think I've matured in every way.
I think what helps that is just experience. You can't beat
experience, especially for me. I missed out on a lot of basketball
due to some injuries from high school to college. So just being
able to play, get games under my belt, there's nothing like
experience. And just with age [too]. You get better with age and
experience. You can see the difference each year. I've grown in the
mental aspect of the game, just learning the game, your IQ grows.
Just everything. Like I said, just being able to play basketball
and get that experience, it goes a long way."
In particular, what did that experience in the playoffs
do for you in Minnesota? I'm sure that's a different
Vanderbilt: "It just gave me a sense of that
next level, that next step. Obviously, we had a great year last
year [in Minnesota] and we made the playoffs, but it kinda gave us
an understanding that it's levels. Obviously, we were just a young
team; we made a lot of young mistakes, and that was our first
playoff run. So like I said, experience goes a long way. You watch
the Grizzlies their first playoff year, they kinda had the same
little young mistakes that we made [in Minnesota]. And then next
year, when they played against us, you could kinda see the growth
that they did in just that short period of time. That experience
goes a long way. You can just tell.
"The playoffs are about details and execution. Every little play
matters, every little thing matters, and you don't really
understand that until you get there and you're actually playing it
live and going through it and watching that film like how every
play really matters. You've gotta be really disciplined, really
detailed and really efficient."
Speaking of last season, I want to gauge your reaction
to the Gobert trade. How did you feel and how did you find
Vanderbilt: "I kinda found out right before it
happened. I wasn't going to say I was really surprised about it. I
knew at that point anything could happen with new management and
stuff. This is my second time getting traded, and ironically, by
the same person (former Denver Nuggets general manager and current
Minnesota Timberwolves president Tim Connelly), so it wasn't really
as much of a shocker like it was the first time. After that first
time, I just realized it's a business and it's part of
"Now, I always just try to look at the positives like I'm able
to go to a team that's allowing me to grow and continue to grow and
expand my game. Like I said, I always try to look at the bright
side and positive things. And honestly, the fact that another team
wanted you, being in this league. I was able to showcase my game
last year, so that's all that matters to me."
You’re still only 23 and going into your fifth year.
That’s unique because there are some rookies and second-year guys
that are older than you! Considering you’re quite far into your
development, how much further do you feel you have to go
individually to get where you want to be?
Vanderbilt: "I feel like I have a long way to
go. But being here in Utah, they're giving me the opportunity to
expand and grow those aspects of my game. Last year, I was just
able to get my feet under [me]. Even though it's my fifth year in
the league, I've only played legitimate minutes probably about one
or two years. Those first few years were just like a learning
experience and me getting my feet under me and stuff like that. So
I'm excited about this year just having a good, fresh start and
just being able to contribute and grow. I'm excited."