Moving -Utah Jazz

Even for the NBA, the churning of the league’s superstars has been dizzying the past two offseasons. From Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving and Paul George last year to LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins and Kawhi Leonard this summer, big trades and free agency moves have animated some of the league’s biggest contenders.

But when it comes to overhaul, the Utah Jazz made a conscious decision to sit this one out. That strategy, while conservative in nature, is bold in how it cuts against the grain. And the Jazz are as interested as anyone to find out if standing pat and developing from within is enough to compete with the NBA’s best.

“I get it: It’s not probably the greatest or most sexy PR thing to come back with the same group, especially when we had some flexibility,” general manager Dennis Lindsey said earlier this month, when the Jazz re-signed Derrick Favors, Dante Exum and Raul Neto. “But we had to understand the associated upside with the continuity.”

While the Jazz have stressed their commitment to keeping the roster together — returning players account for 88 percent of last year’s minutes — Utah’s flexibility for the future remains intact. A number of contracts, including Ricky Rubio, come off the books next summer, and Favors’ second year is not guaranteed, potentially freeing up millions in 2019 to chase a stacked class of free agents.

The 2018-19 season can be better understood as an low-risk experiment: Was the 29-6 finish to last season an accurate reflection of what the current roster can sustain? Could this group develop enough to become a championship contender in an era overshadowed by the dominant Warriors?

“I think the Jazz played a pretty smart middle ground,” said Tim Bontemps, a national NBA writer for The Washington Post. “They kept this group together and kept their flexibility for the future if it doesn’t work out.”

Utah’s 2018 offseason blares continuity: The only rotation player they allowed to walk is Jonas Jerebko. Favors, Exum and Neto were all brought back in free agency, and Georges Niang, who got a multi-year deal, was a two-way Jazz player last season.

In that light, Utah has bought into the idea that locker room chemistry and continuity within Quin Snyder’s system are important and not worth tampering with. There’s hope within the organization that the same core group will be up to speed sooner than mixing in a lot of new players.

“We don’t want to be teaching guys to catch up with our system,” Exum said. “We had a lot of ups and downs. Hopefully we can continue from there.”

It’s certainly true that the winningest organizations value continuity. The Warriors, beyond their biggest stars, have kept role players such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston through their run of three titles. The San Antonio Spurs, arguably the franchise the Jazz most closely try to emulate, have returned players who account for at least 75 percent of total minutes for 14 of the past 20 seasons. By contrast, teams that struggle — examples in recent years include the Nets, the Knicks and Lakers — are fraught with constant roster turnover.

But committing to a group after a hot streak carries a risk: After the Miami Heat went 30-11 to close the 2016-17 season, barely missing the playoffs, the franchise doled out four-year contracts to James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk. This season, Miami was a middling 44-38 team that was washed out in the first round — and now the Heat lack sufficient financial flexibility to do much about it.

Utah Jazz

HOUSTON — With less than a minute left in regulation Wednesday night, Dante Exum delivered a driving dunk to give the Utah Jazz a nine-point edge.

Sensing the team was in control, injured veteran Thabo Sefolosha enjoyed a friendly exchange with a fan sitting courtside.

Even after blowing a 19-point lead, the Jazz would go on to steal Game 2 at the Toyota Center, 116-108, on Sefolosha’s 34th birthday to even the Western Conference semifinals 1-1.

Joe Ingles was hot from the start, logging a new career-high 27 points including seven 3-pointers. Ingles went 10 for 13 from the field as the Jazz outscored the Rockets 30-23 in the fourth.

“Obviously we wanted to be aggressive but like I said a million times within the flow of our offense and our team,” Ingles said. “Lucky enough to get a couple to fall early.”

Ingles is averaging 15.9 points while shooting 50.9 percent from 3-land in this year’s postseason. Utah’s 15 3-pointers also set a franchise playoff high as the team logged its highest point total of the playoffs.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Ingles was prepared to step up from the opening tip as the team needed a big game from him.

“I was giving Joe a hard time,” Snyder said. “He started last year as probably our fifth wing and he wasn’t that for long, but I mentioned it before but every time Joe is needed to step up his game, he’s been able to do that or a least he’s committed to that and I think over time he’s improved.“

Utah’s bench also flourished, especially at the start of the second quarter, with Jae Crowder, Alec Burks and Exum logging solid minutes. The Jazz bench outscored the Rockets bench 41-22.

population-boom

SALT LAKE CITY — Today, the average Wasatch Front commuter spends a little under an hour driving to and from work.

By 2050 — when Utah’s population is projected to hit more than 5 million — that commute time could jump to an hour and 40 minutes.

On top of that, housing prices will be even higher, and there will be little improvement in air quality.

That is — if cities and counties don’t change the way they plan communities or transit in the next few decades, said Andrew Gruber, executive director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, to a crowd of mayors, city council members and other local officials Tuesday. More than 100 people, including business leaders and other community advocates, attended the Wasatch Choice 2050 + Mayor’s Metro-Solutions Symposium at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

“Growth. We keep hearing about it,” Gruber said. “It’s this omnipresent issue. We have been growing, we are growing today, we will continue to grow in the future, and we have all that growth occurring here in the Wasatch Front — we’re bounded by the mountains on one side and then the lake and the mountains on the other.

“Just think about the impacts that growth will have on our quality of life if we stay on the current path we’re on,” Gruber continued.

So looking ahead — knowing Utah is facing a huge population boom in the next three decades — Gruber posed the question: What can local leaders do to preserve the state’s quality of life, from ensuring housing is affordable to preventing bottlenecks on the interstate?

The answer, he said, comes from local leaders strategically working together to plan for the future and build smarter communities — with more housing options, prioritizing open space and more transit-oriented developments, with a variety of transportation choices.

Salt Lake City investments

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — While investment deals in startup companies are down signficantly among North American venture capital firms, one Utah company that specializes in early funding is on an arc of success that is showing no signs of slowing down.

Kickstart Seed Fund announced Wednesday the state’s largest ever seed-dedicated venture capital fund and, at $74 million, the company is poised to add considerably to the slate of 100-plus companies it’s helped.

Company CEO and founder Gavin Christensen said his firm has built its reputation and success through a committment to investing in entrepreneurs that distinguish themselves via a combination of fearlessness, dedication and prudence.

“We’re looking for founders that do a lot with a little,” Christensen said. “They’re gritty, have a deep conviction about what they’re doing and a passion to be successful.

“Our founders are also driven by radical self-belief, but on the flip-side are humble enough to want to change things when needed and to listen when necessary.”

Zeroing in on that character profile has helped Kickstart build an investment portfolio that reads like a who’s who of up-and-coming Utah companies and includes wavemakers like Cotopaxi, Podium, Lucid Software, Homie, Chatbooks, Blyncsy and numerous others.

While the company has earned its stripes with investment successes, the path it traveled while getting there was more typical than not for any startup effort, aka, full of challenges and unexpected curves.

The concept of specializing in seed-stage venture capital funding was hatched while Christensen was working on his MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, but timing, and the Great Recession, would become one of the first obstacles to address.

“The financial crisis hit right in the middle of the effort to put our first fund together,” Christensen said. “We were able to build it to $8 million but it was a very hard $8 million.”

Christensen also faced unabashed cynicism from venture capital veterans who, when they heard back in 2008 that he was focusing on launching a seed-dedicated fund specifically aimed at ventures in Utah and the Mountain West, were something less than supportive.

“When we first started, nobody cared about it,” Christensen said. “People were like ‘Seed funding in Utah? Have fun with that.’”

But that was before the explosion of the state’s tech sector and the rise of the still-burgeoning Silicon Slopes. Now, the company is talking to 500-plus companies a year, making the odds of scoring a Kickstart Seed Fund investment contract a highly competitive undertaking. Company leaders embrace an approach that reflects what they’re looking for in a prospect, namely, basing the task of winnowing pitches on humility and optimism.

“One of things that’s been a hallmark of our culture is trying to maintain a very open door,” said Kickstart partner Curt Roberts. “If you are starting a company that is within the realm of reason a possible candidate for venture capital funding, you’ll get your day in the sun. You’ll have the opportunity to come in and meet our team and tell us about it.”

Christensen said making entrepreneurs the focus of the company has been an operating tenet from day one and remained at the heart of how the company conducts business.

“We were always going to be a different kind of fund,” Christensen said. “Treating entrepreneurs with respect and recognizing that it’s all about them was a pretty different way of approaching things in this arena.”

And that may be why the company has drawn its own investor interest from the font of Utah’s homegrown tech mega-companies. Aaron Skonnard of Pluralsight, Jeremy Andrus of Traeger Grills and Ryan Smith of Qualtrics are all investment participants in the new fund.

Andrus, who before taking over the 30-year-old Traeger Grills and quadrupling profits in just four years had turned Utah’s Skullcandy headphones into an industry giant, lauded Kickstart for both its success and its approach.

“Entrepreneurs in Utah are fortunate to have access to a fund like Kickstart,” Andrus said in a statement. “They not only have the ability to attract and scale seed-stage venture companies, but the firm has also become a platform for knowledge, relationships and community.”

Roberts noted one program the company launched, Kickstart Collective, is leveraging the “collective” knowledge of its large stable of companies in an education network that facilitates more mature ventures sharing knowledge with those new companies that have learned fewer lessons.

“We reached an inflection point with a critical number of companies in a tight geographic area,” Roberts said. “So we decided to creat an initiative…to recognize that these companies are going through very similar experiences. They can teach others what to anticipate and where to watch for mistakes so they can avoid them.”

Carine Clark, veteran entrepreneur and current CEO of Banyan, a Utah tech patient-experience platform company, said Kickstart has distinguished itself both for its business approach and what happens after an investment is made.

“Gavin was really the first guy doing seed funding for Utah companies,” Clark said. “He’s made it easy for companies to not have to go to ‘venture vultures.’ Kickstart helps companies by helping them do a lot with a little. The depth and breadth of their investments is amazing … 10 years and over 100 companies.”

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Now, with a fund that is nearly double the value of its last round, Kickstart is poised to go build its investment portfolio even deeper and wider, and Christensen said the company will be doing more of what it’s been doing well and keep doing it in a style he says may be unique to the Beehive State.

“Kickstart and many other Utah companies have played a different game,” Christensen said. “Money has followed success but money has not driven the success, necessarily. Looking forward, we’re going to continue to back the best entrepreneurs in Utah and the Mountain West.”

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Sandy City

SANDY, Utah – Sandy City announced that it planned to install an ‘I Have a Dream’ sculpture to the south side of the Sandy City Hall later this year.

In a press release made by Sandy City, the scuplture will be erected in an area that already includes the ‘Hope Rising’ monument, dedicated to the deadly terrorist attacks that occurred in New York City on 9-11.

“The new King Jr. sculpture will be heroic and larger than life,” Sandy City said in its statement.

The statue will depict the late Martin Luther King Jr., in the middle of his famous speech.

The finished height of the statue will be 7 feet 8 inches tall, and depict Martin Luther King Jr. forming the words, “I have a dream,” with a raised hand.

“The sculpture will be donated to Sandy City through the generosity of Jason Lindsey of Santa Clara, Utah,” the statement said.

Utah sculptor Stan Watts created the artwork.