Jazz owner taking break from day job to caddie for world No. 13 Finau

New Orleans Pelicans v Utah Jazz
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NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — The tanned, stubbled face behind the dark sunglasses and a black T-shirt underneath a white bib made Ryan Smith look the part of a PGA Tour caddie in the Hero World Challenge.

Looping for Tony Finau is a break from his day job, and Smith only missed his regular routine briefly when he considered the calendar. The Utah Jazz owner would be missing a home game Friday night against the Boston Celtics.

Even so, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Finau’s regular caddie, Mark Urbanek, is home as his wife prepares to have a child. Finau and Smith have been friends in Salt Lake City longer than either can remember.

“He called me and he’s like, ‘Bro, I need you to caddie for me.’ I had to answer the bell, right?” Smith said after his boss for the week rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt for a 6-under 66 to sit one shot off the lead going into the weekend.

“When Tony calls, you go. He doesn’t ask for a lot.”

The Jazz beat the Celtics 137-130 in Smith’s absence.

This isn’t their first time inside the ropes at a tournament. Finau and Smith have been partners twice in the Dunhill Links Championship, a three-course rotation that allows Smith to take on the Barry Burn at Carnoustie and the Road Hole at St. Andrews.

“I’ve been next to him as an amateur partner when he’s in contention on the Old Course, so I know his game well enough, and kind of his temperament,” Smith said. “It’s the perfect setup.”

Almost.

Smith reached the top of the stairs next to the scoring room as Finau stepped inside to sign his card at Albany Golf Club. This was more work than play, but he was loving it.

“Hauling a 50-pound bag around, I think everyone thinks I’m on vacation,” he said. “This is hard work. I’m exhausted.”

Smith is co-founder of Qualtrics, a cloud-computing company in Utah that was sold to German software firm SAP for $8 billion three years ago. The 44-year-old then became majority owner of the Jazz a year ago.

Basketball has been a lifelong passion, and so has golf.

“I had a stepfather who is no longer with us, but he kind of got me going in golf,” Smith said. “I worked at a golf course when I was 14 years old, picking balls on the range and then just loved it. At some point in my 20s, I was like, ’OK, you’ve got to sit down and see what your things are. And golf is one of my things.”

Even as he was building Qualtrics, Smith spent enough time on his game to get down to a 2 handicap index. Along with playing the Dunhill Links with Finau in 2018 and 2019, he has been at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with players like Branden Grace and Josh Teater.

Smith won the Jack Lemmon Award at Pebble in 2019, giving to the amateur who provides the most help to his pro. He and Teater finished third in the pro-am.

“It’s like suiting up and playing an NBA preseason game,” Smith said.

As much as he loves the competition, Smith finds great value in relationships through golf, not to mention a little peace and quiet.

“Some of the best business relationships and the best partners I’ve met on the golf courses. No way our paths would have crossed if not for this game,” he said. “And it’s the one place I go where the phone stays in the bag, which is incredible.

“My wife says, ‘You need yoga.’ I tell her my yoga is golf.”

Smith plays as much basketball as he does golf with Finau, one of the more popular players on the PGA Tour. Finau ended a drought that stretched 142 tournaments over five years when he won The Northern Trust to start the PGA Tour’s postseason.

That victory made Finau a shoo-in to be picked for the Ryder Cup team, where he teamed with Harris English during a record rout by the Americans at Whistling Straits.

This is a good way to end a big year — a 20-man field of elite players, a $3.5 million purse and $1 million to the winner. Finau says his billionaire friend will be treated like his regular caddie.

“He’s taking an extreme pay cut, I know that,” Finau told Golf Channel. “It’s a fun atmosphere and the perfect tournament to bring Ryan along.”

NBA Media Day roundup: Zion looking fit, Ayton sounding reserved, more

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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Most of the NBA conducted media day on Monday — some moments turned our head.

Here’s what you need to know from media day around the league — just the highlights. This does not include anything on the Nets — there’s a separate story on them — or the Lakers (there will be a story Tuesday morning out of Lakers’ media day).

• The reports of Zion Williamson being in the best shape of his career appear to be true. HoodieBev has the recipts.

We’ll see if this translates to the court — there’s a lot of pressure on him — but Zion looks like he’s put in the work.

• Speaking of players who looked in better shape, James Harden looked slimmed down. He joked he lost 100 pounds, but he also talked about his diet and exercise regimen.

Deandre Ayton got a four-year, $132.9 million contract extension this summer, but not because the Suns were handing it out. Ayton had to get the Pacers to make the offer (which is why he doesn’t have a five-year deal) and then the Suns matched it. Ayton is a guy with a usually upbeat personality, but when asked about his new contract, it was a short answer and a low-key tone.

Coach Monty Williams and All-Star Devin Booker both talked about how they expect Ayton to use the contract as motivation and come out with a monster season. We’ll be watching.

• The Suns’ players and coach had to all answer the “what did you think of the Robert Sarver investigation report?” question, and the answers were unanimous — they were disgusted, saddened, and felt for those (especially the women) who had to deal with his behavior. They also to a man said they had no idea (which, at least before the original ESPN report, may have been true; how he acted around players and those on the business side appears to be different).

• All the Celtics were asked about their former coach Ime Udoka’s season-long suspension, and Marcus Smart summed up the sentiments well — “it’s been hell.” They were caught off guard like much of the NBA was. That said, to a man, they backed interim coach Joe Mazzulla.

• With P.J. Tucker out in Miami there has been a lot of talk about Jimmy Butler playing the four, especially to close games. Butler himself shot that down, saying he is not a four.

The Heat continue to look for a trade for a four, but may not have one to start the season.

• At his end-of-season media session last May, Pat Riley said Kyle Lowry needed to show up in better shape this season. It appears Lowry did, but did it motivate him? “It’s whatever… everyone has their opinion.”

• It’s not media day unless Kawhi Leonard is laughing.

As for Leonard and load management this season, coach Tyronne Lue said he would play it by ear. But also, expect some.

 

Report: Heat, Celtics, Mavericks, Grizzlies may show interest in Crowder trade

2022 NBA Playoffs - 	Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns
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The Phoenix Suns had media day on Monday, but veteran Jae Crowder was not there, part of a mutual agreement with the team to sit out until a trade could be found. It left players and GM James Jones addressing the issue.

What teams are interested in Crowder? Shams Charania of The Athletic says to watch for the Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Grizzlies among others.

Miami has been at the front of the line in terms of interest (and Crowder has suggested online he would welcome a return to Miami). The Heat have minutes to fill at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly and Crowder — who was on the Heat team that went to the bubble Finals against the Lakers — would be a solid fit. Putting together a trade is a little more tricky. The Heat would likely want Duncan Robinson at the core of the deal, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig — and that means the Heat have to throw in a pick (a protected first) or a minimum-contract player (Gabe Vincent?) to make the deal work. Not impossible, but not likely.

The Celtics need depth at the four but what they can offer is bench minutes, filling Danilo Gallinari‘s role (he is out for the season with a torn ACL) but putting together a trade is next to impossible financially considering who Boston would be willing to give up (not Robert Williams). Dallas could put together a deal if the Suns are interested in Dwight Powell (probably not, the Suns just paid Deandre Ayton a lot of money to be their center) or Reggie Bullock. Memphis could send out the dead money of the Danny Green contract (out for the season due to injury) and picks, or Ziaire Williamson and some minimum players (probably also with picks). Atlanta, Chicago and other destinations have come out in rumors.

As for why Crowder pushed for a trade, the man himself posted his own hype video on Instagram and Tweeted this.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the most heard speculation around the league as to the reason — the Suns were going to start Cameron Johnson at the four to have more shooting and Crowder wanted none of that — but the reason now is moot. Crowder will get traded.

The only questions are when and where.

Durant, Irving talk about Nets moving on from ‘very awkward’ summer, but drama continues

Brooklyn Nets Media Day
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Media Day — arguably the most boring and tedious day on the NBA calendar — was anything but in Brooklyn.

After a summer Kyrie Irving admitted was “very awkward” — where both he and Kevin Durant pushed to be traded, and Durant threw down an ultimatum saying it was him or coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks — everyone was back under one roof and trying to stay on message about just wanting to win.

But drama will follow this team like a dark cloud until they force the conversation to be about something else. Like how many games they are winning.

Until then, the awkward questions and moments will come. For example, why did Kevin Durant ask for a trade this summer? What did he want to see changed? He talked about the team feeling unstable last season. Which it was (for a variety of reasons).

“My whole thing was, I wanted everybody to be held accountable for their habits as a basketball player. I think a lot of stuff was getting swept under the rug because we’re injured or this guy’s not around or just the circumstances. I thought we could have fought through that a little bit more and focused on the guys that were here a little bit more.

“You know, when I went out with the injury, we lost 10 in a row. And I’m like, we shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor. So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of the stuff that I felt that held us back.”

Those are the best, drama-free answers he could give. But Durant still loves to stir the pot on Twitter and did so later in the day.

(That was the question asked boiled way down, but both the question and Durant’s answer had a lot more context, it was not a confrontational answer in the moment.)

Kyrie Irving said there were options for him this summer, although limited ones, because he is unvaccinated. He also talked about the reasons he wanted to return to the Nets.

Marks handled the inevitable “your star wanted you fired” questions as well as he could, saying at one point “that’s pro sports.”

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinions and I think from us, it’s not to hold a grudge against what Kevin said, but it’s a little bit of saying, ‘All right, if that’s the way he feels, what’s going on here?’ Like, what do we need to change?” Marks said.

In the end, everyone talked about moving on and the potential for this roster. Durant is not disappointed to be back.

“I wasn’t disappointed. I still love to play. I knew that wasn’t going to get affected regardless of what happened this summer,” Durant said.

The Nets have the talent on the roster to be title contenders, but have more questions than any other team at that level after the past couple of years: Can Durant stay healthy? Will Irving be focused and committed for an entire season? How does Ben Simmons fit in and what is his role? Can their thin frontcourt hold up? Will they play enough defense? Is Steve Nash up to the task? Does this team have the will and drive to be contenders?

Playing through the drama is the only way to answer all those questions, but if they do this team could be a powerhouse.

PBT Podcast: Golden State Warriors season preview

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
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The Golden State Warriors will enter the season hanging banner number four from this era and passing out their championship rings, but this is a team with more questions than most returning champs.

Otto Porter and Gary Payton II are gone and their minutes will go to a young core — Jordan Poole, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — who are going to be asked to carry a larger load. Particularly during the regular season.

Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area joins Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to break down this coming Warriors season, what to expect, and if the young core can get the older vets to the playoffs rested and ready to defend their title. There’s also talk of what comes next in Golden State, as some hard contract choices are coming in the next few years.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.