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Jazz ready to put on a Christmas Day show

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Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) puts an Elf hat on Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during a postgame interview as the Utah Jazz defeat the Portland Trail Blazers in an NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018. Jazz won 117-96.

Scott G Winterton, Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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The latest COVID-19 surge has put more than 100 NBA players into the league’s health and safety protocols either after testing positive for the virus or coming in contact with a confirmed case. One of those players is Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic.

On the surface that makes for a less fun Christmas Day matchup for the Utah Jazz, who have had the game circled on the calendar since the schedule was released. But is that how the Jazz feel?

“No, it’s Christmas. No way,” Donovan Mitchell said emphatically. “Doesn’t matter who is out there. You could be out there for playing against me. I don’t care because I’m playing on Christmas. It’s a blessing to be able to play on that day.”

Mitchell went on to describe growing up and looking forward to watching the NBA’s Dec. 25 slate all day long and said that he and the Jazz would be doing a disservice to the fans if they were to relax or not play hard just because the opponent was missing one of the rising stars of the league.

“You’re staying up watching those games, you’re on Christmas break,” Mitchell said, remembering what it was like to be a fan. “So we’ve got to go out there and put on a show and have fun ... It would be nice if everybody was out there and healthy but I’ll be excited to play, I know my teammates are, I know Mavs are. Doesn’t matter what’s going on. It’s a special day. It’s a special game and it’s an honor to play on that day.”

So while the Mavs might be without their biggest star, the Jazz are determined to make the game a must-see for fans.

New with the Jazz

Stat of the week

Jordan Clarkson dished out a season-high seven assists against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night. His seven-assist night ties for his seventh best assist game over his NBA career. Clarkson has had eight assists three times before and has dished out nine, 10 and 11 assists once.

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 Jazz react to the hiring of Danny Ainge, with a bonus episode to come out over the holidays in which they discuss what moves the Jazz could make at the trade deadline.

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

Seven years ago, in Quin Snyder’s first season as head coach of the Utah Jazz (2014-15), the team went into Christmas Day with a 9-20 record. The Jazz were not on the Dec. 25 playing schedule, they weren’t bound for the playoffs and were struggling to find an identity. Now, the Jazz are one of the must-see games of the NBA’s Christmas Day slate, and head into that game with a record that’s the complete opposite at 22-9.

Extra points

  • Who’s in charge of decision making for the Utah Jazz? Time will tell (Deseret News)
  • Jazz react to Jordan Clarkson’s startling dunk against Timberwolves (KSL.com)
  • Hassan Whiteside’s favorite toy is his truck ‘Big Shirley’ (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • How the Jazz dancer’s viral proposal came together (KSL.com)

Around the league

The NBA and NBPA are working toward changing the COVID-19 protocols.

The Staples Center officially becomes Crypto.com arena.

Portland guard C.J. McCollum has recovered from collapsed lung.

Up next

Dec. 25 | 8:30 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Dallas Mavericks | ESPN

Dec. 27 | 6:30 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ San Antonio Spurs | AT&T SportsNet

Dec. 29 | 8 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Portland Trail Blazers | AT&T SportsNet

Dec. 31 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Minnesota Timberwolves | AT&T SportsNet

Dec. 1 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Golden State Warriors | NBATV