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Optimism abounded as the Jazz opened training camp this week, young and hopeful and still unbeaten. No one seemed to embody that more than Enes Kanter, who beamed as he talked about his 3-point game, his relationship with new coach Quin Snyder and his goal of bringing the playoffs back to Utah.
"I'm just pumped up. I'm ready for the season," Kanter said, then looked over the heads of the reporters gathered around him at a teammate standing behind them. "Right, Alec?"
"Yeah," Alec Burks replied with a smile.
For both men, there is plenty this year about which to be pumped.
Last season, both players established themselves as key contributors and anchors of the franchise's young core. Now, entering their fourth professional campaigns, Kanter and Burks figure to take another step in Snyder's fast-paced system.
And, oh yeah, both guys are on the verge of paydays.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said this week he has begun extension talks with both players. Utah has until the end of October to reach deals, or allow them to become restricted free agents in July.
"They're both valued members and we're really proud of where they're at as people and as players," Lindsey said. "We'll see if we can get something done early … but we anticipate both of them being with the Jazz for a long time."
It's the same scenario Lindsey and the Utah front office faced last season with forward Derrick Favors and swingman Gordon Hayward. In the end, Favors got a four-year, $48 million extension signed in October. After deadline negotiations broke down with Hayward's camp, he played out the season and then landed a max deal in restricted free agency an offer the Jazz ultimately matched.
That experience hasn't redefined Lindsey's thought process heading into this year.
"There are going to be deals that you can get … when there's common ground. There are going to be some other situations that are going to dictate you going into the July period and renegotiating," he said. "Sometimes the dynamics mean it's better done early and sometimes it's better done late."
Kanter said he's not going to worry about the negotiations right now.
"Right now, just my focus [is] on basketball and just getting better with the new stuff, new coaches, everything," he said. "I'm not really worried about all those things. I'm letting my agent handle that stuff. I'm waiting. We'll see what's going to happen."
For Burks' part, he would prefer things get done earlier.
"I hope it does," he said. "If it doesn't, it doesn't. It's a business. I saw it work out with D-Fav before the season. I saw it work out with Gordon after the season."
Regardless of how their contract situations play out, this could be a pivotal season for both Kanter and Burks.
Kanter showed flashes of his skill, especially on the offensive end. But the Turkish big man sometimes clashed with coach Ty Corbin for his efforts on defense.
This year, Kanter comes into camp having undergone surgery for a second straight summer. A knee injury that revealed itself after the season turned out to be a torn meniscus, and Kanter spent nearly two-thirds of his summer rehabbing.
Still, Kanter is buoyed by optimism.
He especially gushed over the confidence and ease he's felt playing for Snyder a stark contrast, Kanter said, to how he's felt under previous coaches.
Burks, too, is enthusiastic about his prospects playing for Snyder. He believes his slashing, attack-minded style fits perfectly in the Jazz's new system.
"Play with pace, play in open space. That's what I do," he said.
Burke, one of the Jazz's best at getting to the rim and, frequently, the foul line, said he spent the summer getting stronger. He packed on eight pounds in anticipation of the beating he will take around the rim.
"The sky's the limit for myself," he said. "That's the expectation I have."
He added, "It's an exciting time in my life."
• 6-foot-11, center/forward
• No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft
• Averaged 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds last year
• 6-foot-6, guard
• No. 12 overall pick in the 2011 draft
• Averaged 14 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists last season