Inside the Wynn resort in Las Vegas, with large, elaborate chandeliers lining the 28-foot ceilings, and hardwood NBA courts set up on the ballroom floors, the Utah Jazz opened up training camp on Tuesday.
The geography and the decor was certainly different from what the players are familiar with at Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City, but a change in scenery wasn’t the only difference. The Jazz’s offseason roster additions come to the team with a combined 26 years of NBA experience and that’s meant the Jazz are able to approach their practice time a little differently.
“We didn’t spend too much time on teaching much stuff,” Mike Conley said after the Jazz’s first day of practice. “Normally in training camp you spend a good amount of time just walking around and going through detail after detail. With the vets we brought in ... we’re allowed to just skip all that and just go straight to live action or working on different things that can expedite our situation as a team. So having that kind of group is huge.”
Rudy Gay is going into his 16th year in the league, Hassan Whiteside has eight years of NBA experience under his belt and Eric Paschall is starting his third season. These are players who are well-versed in the language used by different coaches, are studied in defensive coverages, and don’t need to be walked through plays with their hands held.
Conley is right: Usually when an NBA team comes together after an offseason and there are new players on the team, training camp is like a quick course in schemes, sets and coach-specific vernacular. But the Jazz have hit the ground running, and bringing back such a large part of last season’s roster has made for an even smoother transition.
“It’s a lot easier the first day of camp with bringing so many guys back than it was four or five years ago when we had that big turnover of players,” Joe Ingles said. “So things get incorporated a bit quicker.”
You’d think that working out in a ballroom in Las Vegas might call for some time to adapt, but Donovan Mitchell noted that most everyone on the team was in the NBA bubble in Orlando in 2020, so working on a court in a hotel is no longer new territory. It actually almost feels normal at this point.
Mitchell went on to say that being able to come in on the first day and really get down to business, especially since each player stayed in great shape over the offseason, makes everything feel a little more serious. It’s a mentality that Mitchell is excited about taking into the regular season.
“Normally in training camp you spend a good amount of time just walking around and going through detail after detail. With the vets we brought in ... we’re allowed to just skip all that and just go straight to live action or working on different things that can expedite our situation as a team. So having that kind of group is huge.” — Jazz guard Mike Conley
“Obviously it’s the first day so it’s easy to say that, but I can tell it’s a different mindset different vibe about the group,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to have that throughout the whole season. Not just start off early, or not just start doing it later, but throughout the full 82 and in the playoffs.”
The Jazz will certainly need to build on this first day of practice, and as the season approaches they will add more nuance and detail to their sessions, with focus on the newer players, but they feel they are off to a really good start.
Additionally, the way the Jazz’s preseason is scheduled, they’ll more or less have time for a second training camp. With games in San Antonio and Dallas on Oct. 4 and 6, the Jazz then return to Utah, and although they have two more preseason games to play at home, the team will be in-market until the second game of the regular season on Oct. 22.
So, location and gaudy light fixtures aside, the Jazz feel like they’re already ahead of the game and are making the most of every minute.