Danny Ainge: Utah Jazz ‘Didn’t Really Believe in Each Other’

When Danny Ainge joined the Utah Jazz’s front office to guide basketball operations in December 2021, their core was already intact. The Jazz built their lineup around Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, utilizing Joe Ingles, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Royce O’Neale as two-way players that can knock down a three-pointer.

While the team was 19-7 when Danny Ainge took over, the Jazz had only won season playoff series over the past five seasons despite occasional regular season dominance. As the season progressed, Ainge realized that the Jazz “didn’t really believe in each other.”

The personal revelation led Ainge to ship off Gobert to Minnesota, Mitchell to Cleveland, O’Neale to Brooklyn, and Ingles to Portland; however, he never played for the Blazers due to a torn ACL.   

“What I saw during the season was a group of players that didn’t really believe in each other. Like the whole group,” Ainge said, per ESPN. “I think they liked each other even more than what was reported, but I’m not sure there was belief.”

Ainge was hoping the team would remedy their issues by the beginning of the postseason, but after a disappointing end to their season at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, despite Luka Doncic missing multiple games, Ainge knew it was time to begin their rebuild. 

“When we got to the playoffs, I thought, well, this team that has had some disappointing playoffs, so I thought maybe they’re just waiting for the playoffs. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, but it was clear the team didn’t perform well in the playoffs again.”  

“Like I believe every one of these guys went into every game believing they were going to win, don’t get me wrong on that. I’m just saying when adversity hit, the resolve you could see in a team that has a true belief in having each other’s back or one another.”

Utah’s shift to a rebuild was expected after the Jazz dropped another first-round series. Ainge’s ambitious moves to trade Gobert and Mitchell results in Utah receiving a pevy of picks and young players. Utah begins its most challenging season yet against the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 19.