SALT LAKE CITY — Pretty regularly, it happens.
Most of the media members in Salt Lake City pay it no mind when they receive the uniform press release.
It usually says one or two things: “Jazz Assign Tony Bradley to Salt Lake City Stars” or “Jazz Recall Tony Bradley from Salt Lake City Stars.”
While the announcements leave the press unbothered, most people tend to forget that there’s one guy who is actually affected by these moves: Tony Bradley.
“It’s different just with the Jazz just sitting and being called down to start and having to play that amount of minutes, but it’s just another adjustment for me,” Bradley said.
Not even a year ago, Bradley was cutting the net in front of more than 76,000 fans at University of Phoenix Stadium celebrating the North Carolina Tar Heels’ national championship victory against Gonzaga.
On Monday night, he still somehow managed to hold his head high after his fifth NBA G League assignment with the Salt Lake City Stars, even after losing 117-104 to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
In 29 minutes, he posted eight points, eight rebounds and a block. The Jazz then recalled the rookie from the Stars on Tuesday.
“These games are for him, and it’s good for him,” said Stars coach Martin Schiller. “It’s very important to have him on the floor, learn things, run pick-and-rolls.
“I thought he rolled much better and set much better screens than three weeks ago,” he added. “That’s progress.”
Both mentally and physically, making that transition back and forth from the NBA to the G League can get tough for the 19-year-old.
But the 6-foot-10, 248-pound center knew this was the potential risk he was taking after becoming North Carolina’s first one-and-done in nearly a decade. He knows he has to stay ready at all times, as this trying period is helping him build character.
“Most of the time, I just try to do my own conditioning before and after practice, but that’s pretty much it,” Bradley said. “My own conditioning is still not game shape. It’s different, so I just need more reps, more experience, more playing experience and that’s it.”
Utah acquired Bradley’s draft rights from the Los Angeles Lakers after being selected 28th overall. Stars guard Naz Mitrou-Long spent time in preseason and training camp with the Jazz and respects Bradley’s ability to stay positive through the constant change.
“It’s pretty tough,” Mitrou-Long said. “It’s not easy to go up there and learn all the schemes, play when it’s time to play in practice and then come down to a group that he hasn’t really been with, let alone practice with at all, then get thrown out there and have to play.
“So, it’s tough, but anytime he’s here he’s a help, he’s a big body and a he’s a heck of a player, so I’m excited to see his career because he’s going to be special.”
Bradley has appeared in five games with the Jazz, averaging 0.8 points and 1.2 rebounds. His first two buckets were scored in Brooklyn on Nov. 17. For the Stars, he has played two games and averages 14 points, six boards and 0.5 assists.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder and the organization sees Bradley as a nice project, but it’s certainly a process until he begins to make his way into the rotation. As his strength and athleticism develops, Snyder recognizes his natural length and size but is teaching him how to play within the system.
His development is pivotal, but Snyder is able to remain patient based on his past experience as head coach of the Austin Toros, who were a D-League affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs.
“Right now, for him, it’s ironic that with Rudy (Gobert) out, because Derrick (Favors) and Ekpe (Udoh) have played well, there aren’t really minutes for him at the five with the Jazz,” Snyder said. “But he’s got to stay ready and available because, as we know, anything can happen, and then, when we do get Rudy back, I think there will be opportunities to for Tony to get minutes in the G League, which is a great experience.”