The Utah Jazz will open up their 2021-22, four-game preseason schedule on the road against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday and the biggest priorities for each player and coach differ depending on who you ask.
For Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, it’s hard to really narrow things down to just a single preseason goal. There’s a lot that he wants to accomplish and see through the four games between now and the opening of the regular season on Oct. 20.
“Obviously, the ultimate goal is to be as prepared as you can be going into the regular season, and even that you can define a lot of different ways,” Snyder said during Jazz training camp in Las Vegas. “You try to have a plan, and then also understand ... that you can adapt from it. That adaptation is a crucial part of it.”
Snyder is already adapting the original plan. Bojan Bogdanovic (sore shoulder) will not play in Monday’s game against the Spurs and newly acquired Rudy Gay will not play in any of the preseason games as he recovers from surgery on his left heel to remove a bone spur. Those missing players are going to impact the way that Snyder looks at the preseason games and what he’s looking for.
With Gay sidelined for a while, there’s probably going to be a greater opportunity for Eric Paschall to get acclimated to the Jazz’s style of play with extended minutes. Of course, the way that Paschall sees things, even if Gay and Bogdanovic were healthy, it’s still his responsibility to make the most out of the preseason.
“I’m just trying to prove myself, regardless of if (Gay) was hurt or not,” Paschall said. “I’ve just got to get my foot in the door. Bring some intensity, toughness and do that every day regardless of who is hurt or not.”
For the rest of the team, there’s a balance that they will attempt to strike between incorporating new rotational players like Hassan Whiteside, refining some of the new things the team has added to its schemes, and keeping an eye out for a diamond in the rough.
“Someone could play really well and you see him in a different light and you want to explore that,” Snyder said. “We’ve got some young players that are going to be competing for opportunity. ... And we’ve got some things we’re doing that we want to get better at. Reps in competitive environments are one of the ways that that can happen.”
Although the points and scores and wins or losses of the preseason won’t matter, what happens on the court is crucial to the Jazz’s success. The more they’re able to achieve and evaluate through this four-game stretch, the less time they have to spend on those things during the early going of the regular season.
It’s not just that Jared Butler wants to get used to the rhythm and grind of an NBA schedule, or that Paschall is adjusting to eliminating mid-range shots from his game, or the coaches wanting to see what they have in the younger end-of-bench players.
The core rotation and veteran players on the team want to go into the regular season feeling a sense of calm with how the team is playing. They don’t want things to be clunky. That’s what the preseason is about — ironing things out and getting the most out of everyone on the roster.