Utah Jazz are a professional basketball team based in Salt Lake City, Utah. They are currently members of the Northwest Division of the Western Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The franchise began in 1974 as the New Orleans Jazz, based in New Orleans, Louisiana, but the team moved to Utah in 1979 after just five seasons. Jazz were one of the most unsuccessful teams in the league in their early years, and it would be 10 years before they made a playoff appearance (in 1984). They would not miss the playoffs again until 2004. During the late 1980s, John Stockton and Karl Malone arose as the franchise players for the team, and formed one of the most famed point guard/power forward duos in NBA history. Led by coach Jerry Sloan, who took over for Frank Layden in 1988, they became one of the powerhouse teams of the 1990s, culminating in two NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998, where they lost both times to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. Both Stockton and Malone moved on in 2003 and after missing the playoffs for 3 seasons, they have returned to prominence under the on-court leadership of the franchise duo of point guard Deron Williams and power forward Carlos Boozer, seen by many to have taken over the mantle left by Stockton and Malone.
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During the 2009 offseason, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, and Kyle Korver all possessed clauses for the final year of their contract in which they could choose to opt out and seek a bigger deal – however, all 3 of them chose to “opt-in” and serve the final year of their contracts in Utah. In July, Okur signed a 2-year contract extension worth $21 million, keeping him with Utah through the 2011-2012 season. However, despite Boozer’s decision to not opt-out, Boozer asked for a trade after learning that the Jazz verbally expressed more interest in keeping Paul Millsap and was actively looking to trade him. Millsap, a restricted free agent, signed an offer sheet from the Portland Trail Blazers but Utah exercised their right to match the offer and signed Millsap.
Houston Rockets have been a frequent rival of the Utah Jazz. They continually met in the playoffs during the 1980s and especially the 1990s. They first met 1985, when the Jazz defeated the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. The Jazz and Rockets met each other four times in five years during the mid-90s. They met in the conference finals in both 1994 and 1997, with the Rockets winning the first time and the Jazz the second time. In 1995 the Rockets beat the Jazz 3–2 and 1998, the Jazz defeated the Rockets in the first round, with the Rockets taking the #1-seeded Jazz to the full five games in 1998. The rivalry was re-ignited in the 2007 and 2008 playoffs, where the Jazz defeated the Rockets in the first round both times. In the old Western Conference, Utah and Houston were divisional foes; however, the Jazz have since relocated to the Northwest Division, while Houston is now in the Southwest Division.
The Jazz, as one of the dominant team of the 1990s, struck up a rivalry with the Eastern Conference Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls that resulted in the Jazz meeting and losing to them in the 1997 and 1998 NBA championships. The Portland Trail Blazers, who share their division, were a frequent rival throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. More recently, the San Antonio Spurs, who shared the division with the Jazz until 2004, the Denver Nuggets, and the Los Angeles Lakers have become heated rivals.