Sarah Todd covers the NBA and Utah Jazz for the Deseret News.
For the first time this season the Utah Jazz actually have a chance to sleep in their own beds and wake up the next day to an actual break.
On Thursday the Jazz don’t have a game, don’t have practice and don’t have to get on a flight to travel to another city; it’s the first time since the season started nearly a month ago that they’ve had a chance to kind of relax.
“People say Utah’s beautiful, I have no clue, I haven’t seen it. It’s a grind. We were worn out at the end of that trip in Philly and then coming back and you get back at 6 a.m. East Coast time. You know what I mean?” — Kelly Olynyk
“People say Utah’s beautiful, I have no clue, I haven’t seen it,” Kelly Olynyk said with a laugh. “It’s a grind. We were worn out at the end of that trip in Philly and then coming back and you get back at 6 a.m. East Coast time. You know what I mean?”
That’s been the way the Jazz have operated over the last few weeks. It’s been late flights and multiple back-to-back sets and trying to find time to practice on the road and then barely having time to catch their breath in the moments when they are in town before it all starting back up the next day.
Of course, that’s every NBA season. The 82-game schedule is not forgiving and it’s not easy, but this road-heavy schedule to start the year has taken a toll on the players.
“Our sleep has been kind of messed up,” Conley said after Tuesday night’s loss to the New York Knicks. “Getting in places really late, three, four in the morning and getting back here at four in the morning. That takes a toll on you whether you think of it or not.”
The team held practice Wednesday, which included an involved film session where they focused on some problem areas, namely transition defense, which head coach Will Hardy described as “terrible,” noting that the Jazz’s half-court defense has been top-five in the league, while the transition defense has been at or near the bottom of the league.
That’s been something the Jazz have been trying to fix since the season started and they’ll continue to work on it and hold group film sessions and iron out the kinks in their defensive principles. But, Hardy said that these couple of days are really more about rest for the mind and body than anything else.
Hardy said that it’s not just the players who needed this break at home. He’s ecstatic about having some time with his family.
“It’s so good,” he said with a sigh. “It’s not just the physical recharge, but the mental and emotional recharge. For people to be able to be home with their families in their own space. ... It doesn’t matter how nice the hotel is, living out of a suitcase can get old. For people just to be in their own bed and their own space is great. These two days, the biggest focus for us as a group is to recharge.”
“It’s not just the physical recharge, but the mental and emotional recharge. For people to be able to be home with their families in their own space. ... It doesn’t matter how nice the hotel is, living out of a suitcase can get old.” — Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy
For those on the team new to the NBA, the hectic and never-ending schedule has opened their eyes. Rookie Walker Kessler said that he’s had plenty of “welcome-to-the-NBA” moments on the court.
“I don’t know if y’all have watched, people have tried to baptize me a couple of times,” Kessler said, laughing. “And some people have been successful.”
But Kessler said the biggest “welcome-to-the-NBA” moments have been learning to deal with the constant schedule.
“It’s not like they’re holding your hand like in college where it’s very hands-on. You’re an adult so they expect you to take care of yourself,” Kessler said. “That’s been an adjustment. Personally, I like that better. But yeah, the travel and just responsibility that comes with it.”
The Jazz are coming off their first losing streak of the season, having lost three consecutive games to the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers on the road on Saturday and Sunday and then to the Knicks at home Tuesday. They’re hoping that the rest at home will give them a fighting chance as they look toward a home game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday.