It is perfectly normal for an NBA player to move from one team to another, through trade or free agency, and for it to take a while to build chemistry with a new team.

On that new team there is usually some continuity, some players that understand the system and can help guide the new guys on the roster. But the Utah Jazz are unique in that there are hardly any holdovers from last season’s team. Not only are there 14 new faces, but there’s a brand new, first-time head coach and everything is new.

The last time that Mike Conley can remember playing on a team where there were so many people that he didn’t know was his rookie season. But even then, there were guys on that team who had already built some chemistry with one another. There was a foundation in place.

“Here you have guys who have literally only played together for a few days,” Conley said after the Jazz’s first preseason game. “It’s tough and there’s going to be some growing pains.”

Even players who came to the Jazz in the same trade are lacking in chemistry. Lauri Markkanen played a handful of games with Collin Sexton in Cleveland before Sexton was sidelined because of injury, and he hadn’t even met rookie Ochai Agbaji before getting to Utah following the trade that send Donovan Mitchell to the Cavaliers.

Related
Rudy Gobert talks Victor Wembanyama, poses for viral photo
The challenges of being a first-year NBA head coach

Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt played together in Minnesota, but that was under a different coach, with 13 other players.

Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gay, Jared Butler, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Udoka Azubuike were on the Jazz roster last year, but Gay was injured at the start of the season and out of the lineup by the end of it. Butler barely got any playing time with the regular rotation guys, Alexander-Walker was joined at the trade deadline and then didn’t see the floor much and Azubuike was injured and is still sidelined, working his way back from ankle surgery.

“It’s going to take us a while to get used to everyone and learn everyone,” Clarkson said. “We’re still just getting the basics down. We’re not even at the point of knowing guys’ spots and individual games.”

And all of that makes perfect sense.

Through the first couple preseason games, the Jazz looked disjointed and unfamiliar even in their best moments. That’s not a criticism, just an observation about a team made up of players that truly don’t know each other. After the first preseason game against the Toronto Raptors, it was clear that the Jazz had a long way to go.

“It’s a lot tougher than you think,” Alexander-Walker said. “Our first game was against a team that pretty much looks exactly the same top to bottom and they have their culture set.”

This team has to learn what head coach Will Hardy wants, how he wants them to play, what actions he’s expecting from them and then they also have to learn each individual’s tendencies.

Learning where players like to catch the ball, what spots they like to shoot or take off from, how fast they move in the pick-and-roll, if they generally drive to the right or left and many other basketball nuances is going to take a lot of time. So, patience is going to be a necessary trait for anyone on this team.

The good news is that the Jazz, having only been fully practicing and together for a couple weeks at this point, are starting to make strides. A lot of that has to do with the attitude that every player has approached this new team with.

View Comments

“We came in with the right mindset, very fresh and ready to work,” Stanley Johnson said. “We came into camp like sponges. A lot of teams don’t come into camp like sponges, I’ve been on a couple of teams like that. But when you’re that available and that open to coaching, you take big leaps, like big long ones.”

It’s not that anyone on the Jazz thinks they are where they need to be or even close to where they can get when it comes to chemistry and understanding each other. But, they are on their way and they feel good about the vibe around the team.

“I think we’ve gotten to know each other and I think we like each other a lot more now,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve had some tough moments and those are the things that — until you have a tough moment, until you have a moment like that you’re not really working, you’re not tired yet, you’re not not really into camp yet. So, I think we’re going through that.”

The expectations of the Jazz, from the outside, are not high. Internally, the expectations are largely based on chemistry. They need to feel like they are getting farther and farther away from barely knowing each other’s names. They want to feel that even if they aren’t winning that they are working for one another. That’s actually a lofty goal for a team this new. But it’s one they are striving for.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.