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Practices becoming fewer for Jazz under new NBA schedule

WASHINGTON — The Utah Jazz actually held a practice on Monday, at the University of Miami, after they opted to stay in the warmer weather for a couple of extra days rather than moving north to Washington as originally planned.

It’s the first time the Jazz have held an actual practice in nearly a month (they have had several day-of-game shootarounds) as practices have become rarer for the team this year.

The new NBA schedule for the 2017-18 season, which is two weeks longer than in the past, was designed to keep players fresher during the season and to hopefully keep coaches from resting players as often as in recent years.

With a couple of extra weeks tacked on at the beginning of the season, teams have fewer back-to-backs and no more four-games-in five-night sets.

It may seem incongruous, but the new schedule has actually allowed for fewer practice opportunities for teams than in recent years.

That’s because in the past teams would have more space between some of those four-games-in-five-nights stretches, while now teams are playing a lot of every-other-day schedules and a lot of coaches are opting to not hold practices in between two games.

For instance, the Utah Jazz held only one practice the whole month of December, back on Dec. 11 when they had three days off between games at Milwaukee and Chicago. The only other times they had more than a day in between games was during the Christmas holidays and coach Quin Snyder opted not to hold practice.

“Myself personally, I didn’t see it coming the way it’s played out,” said Snyder. “What’s happened a little bit with the NBA schedule, when you had four in five nights, you at least had two days where you get a practice in. When you’re playing every other day, it’s hard to find time to practice. A lot of times you still feel you still need a day of rest even if that doesn’t mean a day off completely, your practices are modified to reflect that.”

Snyder says several factors go into the decision of whether or not to hold practices. He said the first year he was with the Jazz, the team practiced as much as possible and that shootarounds were like practices “because we felt we had so much teaching to do” with the younger players.

“The youth of your team, the experience of your team, the time of the season -- traditionally we’ve tapered as the season has gone on. Invariably you’ll see some things you really need to work on and maybe the priority is there over fatigue.”

The Jazz aren’t likely to practice Tuesday when they’ll be traveling up to Washington.

Looking ahead on the schedule, the Jazz could fit in a practice between the last game of this road trip Friday night and the home game against Indiana on the 15th, unless Snyder wants to give his team added rest after a nine-day road trip. After that, there is a three-day gap between a game in Toronto on Jan. 26 and Golden State on the 30th, but not many other opportunities before the All-Star break.

‘DEVON’ THE DUNKER: Donovan Mitchell has certainly been making a name for himself this year with his exciting play as a rookie in the NBA. But not everyone knows who he is yet.

While showing highlights of his impressive 27-point performance Sunday against the Heat, including his one-handed catch-and-dunk, a Miami sportscaster called him “DeVon” Mitchell.

JAZZ NOTES: Derrick Favors, who was in and out of the lineup in the fourth quarter Sunday, went through portions of practice Monday and is listed as "probable" with a right ankle sprain . . . With his 27-point performance against Miami, Mitchell raised his scoring average to 18.5 ppg, the best on the team and highest among NBA rookies . . . The Washington Wizards, Utah’s Wednesday opponent, have the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference, but the Jazz have beaten the Wizards handily the last three times they met. Last month at Vivint Arena, the Jazz beat the Wizards 116-69 and last year in Washington, they took a 102-92 victory in D.C. as well as a 95-88 win at home . . . The Jazz conclude their road trip on Friday night against Charlotte and return home to play Indiana Monday night . . . By beating Utah for the second time on Sunday, Miami swept the season series for only the fifth time in history.