SALT LAKE CITY — Lindon resident Skyler Hone drove to West Jordan Thursday to have his locks trimmed into Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert's style, complete with the Frenchman's signature "magic swirl" insignia.
"I'm getting it because I like the way Rudy plays with passion," Hone, 23, said enthusiastically. "He brings leadership to the team. I just like the way he plays, and he has so much talent."
Jazz fever is alive and well in Utah as fans celebrate the team's first playoff appearance since 2012.
Hone isn't the only one walking around town coiffed like Gobert or fellow Jazz star Gordon Hayward. Fans who stop by three designated salons Thursday and Friday can get their hair cut for free in the style of the team's top two players.
K.C. Ushijima, 37, of Eagle Mountain, also made the trip to Taylor Andrews Academy Thursday for his complimentary Hayward haircut.
"It's kind of similar to what I already do and it's a way to support the Jazz," he explained. "I'm super excited (about the playoffs)! I've been a Jazz fan since the Stockton days, and even through the 'down days.' Now they're winning again and it's been a long time coming."
The Jazz host the Los Angeles Clippers in Games 3 and 4 of the first round playoff series at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Friday and Sunday. The series is tied 1-1.
"Me and my friends are going (to arrive) three hours early," Hone said. "The atmosphere is just going to be great. It just feels like a dream come true to be able to see your team back in the playoffs."
He particularly admires Gobert, who he says carries himself in a humble, dignified manner. As for the team and its chances in the playoffs, he is stoked to be among the thousands of fans that will be on hand for Game 3 Friday night to cheer them to victory.
Ushijima predicts a series win for the Jazz — if their shooting is "on-point."
The team is also making lots of preparations for its first playoff appearance in half a decade. But fans will have to navigate a few inconveniences created by a recently launched redevelopment plan.
Last month, the organization began construction on a $125 million stadium renovation scheduled for completion in October. The initial phase includes closing off a large section of the main plaza leading up to one of the arena's primary ground-level entrances, as well as the downstairs entrance that accesses the box office and will call.
For the time being, visitors can use other entrances around the perimeter of the building to come and go. The ticket box office has been moved to a temporary location on 100 South directly across the street from the arena, said Frank Zang, senior vice president of communications for Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment.
In previous years during the playoffs, the team brought bands and numerous outdoor activities on the plaza for fans to enjoy, but activities on the plaza are minimal this year because of the construction zone, he said.
"You'll see a mixture of construction and 'playoff fever' on the plaza," he said. "We'll have a live DJ, face painters and 'Take Note' statues that people can take selfies with."
He promised there will be plenty of spirit-lifting activities inside the arena leading up to game time.
"We are also putting out the white T-shirts and rally towels on all the seats," Zand said.
As a warning to fans wanting to see the games in person, the Jazz issued a ticket fraud alert for the Friday and Sunday games. Fans were advised against purchasing fraudulent tickets from non-verified, third party sellers and reminded that only tickets purchased from authorized outlets will guarantee entry to the games. Thus far, ticket sales have been brisk, he said.
"We expect the Friday night game to be sold out, (but) tickets are still available for the Sunday game," he said. A third home game will be on April 28, if necessary.
After five years without playoff basketball, season ticket holder Scott Zuckerman said finally being able to watch the Jazz in the postseason will be gratifying.2 comments on this story
"I'm happy with the way the team has been built. There is not a player on the roster I don't like," he said. "It's a very easy team for me to root for."
He, like many other fans, is also optimistic about Jazz fever continuing for a while since he likes the team's chances of making it to the next round.
"Making the playoffs was a big step this season. I think we should win this series top to bottom, we are a better team than the L.A. Clippers," Zuckerman said. "I like watching intense basketball games, and I'll enjoying watching them live."