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Why in-person reporter-athlete interviews matter

A fun little tidbit that wouldn’t have happened via Zoom

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell talks during the media media day at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Sept. 27, 2021.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell talks during the Utah Jazz media media day at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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Since the NBA shutdown in March 2020, media access with NBA players, coaches and executives has been incredibly limited. Basically everything has been done over Zoom with no in-person access.

But this season the NBA has opened up in-person access to a limited number of vaccinated reporters and it’s made a huge difference. When interviews were conducted via Zoom there was rarely ever a chance for a follow-up question or just some lighthearted banter before the cameras start rolling.

Those are some of the most important moments for a reporter because it allows you to build rapport and to get insight on personalities. It’s been clear through training camp and the preseason that the more normalized access is going to greatly benefit the readers. The players’ answers and conversations are richer and more detailed and being able to read body language is really important.

On Wednesday night, after the Utah Jazz’s season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a great example of what I’m talking about occurred. Donovan Mitchell walked into the postgame interview room wearing what looked like sunglasses. Someone made a joke about it and Mitchell noted that they were tinted, not full-on sunglasses.

This was a perfect opening to ask something I’d be wondering for a while. I knew that Mitchell wore prescription glasses, but had never seen him put in contacts before a game or take them out after, so I asked if he wore contact lenses during games.

He does not. He then went on to describe the difficulty he had trying out contacts in college.

“Even if I was able to put them in — which it took me 212 hours to put one in — getting them out was worse,” Mitchell said. “I’d sleep in them, my eyes were irritated, it was a whole process.”

All that being said, Mitchell doesn’t have a very strong prescription so playing without corrective lenses is not uncommon for those who don’t have largely distorted sight. Contrary to what the Twitter doctors believe, Mitchell is perfectly capable on the court and is not having sight issues that aren’t being addressed by his already robust team of doctors and experts.

Anyway, just a fun little tidbit that wouldn’t have happened via Zoom.

New with the Jazz

Stat of the week

Donovan Mitchell was just 1-of-8 from the field and had two points and one assist at halftime in the Jazz’s opener on Wednesday. But he turned things around in the second half, finishing the game with 16 points and four assists.

This week on ‘Unsalvageable’

Check out “Unsalvageable: A Utah Jazz Podcast,” hosted by Deseret News Utah Jazz beat reporter Sarah Todd and lifelong Jazz fan Greg Foster (no, not that Greg Foster). This week, the crew recapped the final two preseason games, ranted about the Ben Simmons saga and then made predictions for the standings in both conferences as well as the end-of-year NBA awards.

New episodes come out every week. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast and anywhere else you stream podcasts.

From the archives

This week in Jazz history

On Oct. 25, 1985, Karl Malone made his debut for the Utah Jazz at home against Houston. The Rockets won 112-108.

Extra points

  • The Utah Jazz scholarship program is back (Deseret News)
  • Why opening night for Donovan Mitchell and Eric Paschall was so special (Deseret News)
  • Hollinger: Jazz in the finals? My fearless predictions for the NBA season (The Athletic)
  • Jazz say there’s no such thing as normal anymore (Salt Lake Tribune)

Around the league

Enes Kanter’s comments cause blackout of Celtics games in China.

Ben Simmons has been kicked out of a practice and then skipped a workout this week.

24 questions to answer for the 2021-22 NBA season.

Up next

Oct. 22 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Sacramento Kings | AT&T SportsNet

Oct. 26 | 8 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets | TNT

Oct. 28 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Houston Rockets | AT&T SportsNet

Oct. 30 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Chicago Bulls | AT&T SportsNet

Oct. 31 | 6 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Milwaukee Bucks | NBATV

Nov. 2 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Sacramento Kings | AT&T SportsNet