Bailey: The Jazz Have Been Through A Journey; Mitchell No Longer A Rookie

The Jazz could have faded after losing Gordon Hayward. Didn't happen. Now they're one win from the second round

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
April 24, 2018 - 9:00 am

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The Utah Jazz have been perhaps the most underrated story in basketball this season. After losing their best player, Gordon Hayward, to free agency, the Jazz seemed destined for the lottery – and for potentially the next couple of seasons.

Didn’t happen. The Jazz went 48-34, finished fifth in a stacked Western Conference, and lead the No. 4 Thunder 3-1 in their first-round playoff series.

How are the Jazz doing this?

“I think it’s the journey,” AT&T Sportsnet Jazz analyst Thurl Bailey said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think it really is the journey. You go back to where Gordon Hayward made his decision to move on, and Jazz Nation is looking and saying, ‘What are we going to do now? The team is kind of in disarray. We’ve got this rookie who’s pretty good, but how good is he really?’”

That rookie, of course, is Donovan Mitchell, who averaged 20.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 79 games this season. He’s been even better in the postseason, with averages of 27.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He scored a game-high 33 points in Utah’s 113-96 win in Game 4 on Monday.

“Everybody understands and trusts what Dennis Lindsey has done with this team, but you really don’t know until you actually see it,” Bailey said of Utah’s GM. “Donovan Mitchell is just a special player. I don’t mean just special in the sense that he’s a great player, but the way he’s handling (it) we can’t even call him a rookie anymore (with) the way he’s handling himself on the court, what he’s saying, and (what) he’s absorbing from the veterans.”

Utah lost Game 1 of the series in Oklahoma City but has since won three straight. The margin of victory has increased each game, going from seven to 13 to 17. 

The Jazz are one win away from the second round. Game 5 is Wednesday in OKC at 9:30 p.m. ET.

“The Jazz have been through a journey,” Bailey said. “They’ve been through the tough part of it. This is really the culmination of them sticking together, believing in Quin Snyder’s system, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch."