The Utah Jazz wrapped up training camp in Las Vegas on Thursday and headed back to Utah. But why did the Jazz leave Utah in the first place?
It’s a fair question that many have asked since learning that the Jazz were leaving the Beehive State. After all, they have a state-of-the-art practice facility at Zions Bank Basketball Campus and most of the players have homes and lives that are familiar and comfortable.
But, familiarity and comfort wasn’t exactly the vibe that Jazz coach Quin Snyder was aiming for with training camp. He actually started thinking about a destination training camp back when the team was in the NBA bubble in Orlando.
What was unique about the NBA campus setup at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Disney World is that it brought the team together in proximity that it hadn’t experienced before. All of the Jazz’s rooms were close to one another and there was no need to get on a bus or drive to the gym. They walked from their hotel room to a hotel ballroom where NBA courts had been set up. They ate together, worked out together, spent their down time together.
“Because of the situation, we just were around each other a lot,” Snyder said. “It wasn’t just a dinner ... it’s all the little moments that you just don’t get because you want to either get home to your family or there’s so many different things that are important to you.”
While being at home can be familiar and comfortable, those comforts can be a distraction. You might be thinking that Las Vegas is full of its own distractions, and that’s true. But any activity the players took part in, they did so together.
Snyder also didn’t want to take the players away for too long and force them to be away from their families and comforts to the point of exhaustion, so the three-day trip made sense in accomplishing both of those ideas.
It helped that some redecorating and renovating at ZBBC gave the team even more of an excuse to get out of town. But there was also one more thing. As the players enter the practice facility or arena, they are greeted by banners and photos and lists of all of the team’s accomplishments. It’s proof of the culture and identity that the team is creating and positive reinforcement is important.
But, with the way that last season ended for the Jazz, Snyder felt like those images of accomplishment wouldn’t be helpful in the complicated unpacking of feelings tied to the team’s playoff exit. It made more sense to go through that process as a group, away from everyone and everything else, and make sure that they don’t forget what happened but are still able to move forward.
So did it all work? Did the Jazz get what they wanted out of their Vegas trip?
“It almost forces you to kind of hang out and spend time together,” Joe Ingles said. “Obviously, like the bubble, which was a very similar feeling, obviously, to this.”
The newer players started to get a feel for their teammates and picked up on some of their tendencies while also getting a deeper understanding of their personalities. Make no mistake, this wasn’t just about team-building and bonding.
“This isn’t vacation,” Snyder was quick to point out. “This was a real training camp, and at the same time, I think it provided us opportunities to be around one another.”
The Jazz will have one more short trip to Texas for preseason games against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks on Monday and Wednesday, respectively. Then they’ll spend the rest of the preseason in Salt Lake City. And before they know it, the regular season will be here, and hopefully all the practice time and bonding and processing will have them prepared for the road ahead.