Will Hardy is feeling a lot more comfortable compared to how he was feeling around this time last year. But comfort and familiarity does not necessarily mean relaxed.

Though the Utah Jazz are heading to Hawaii for training camp, Hardy is not anticipating too much relaxation.

“Individual motives are good and powerful, and we need to lean into those. But we also have to remember that we have 82 games coming and that we’re all wearing the same jersey.” — Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy

Entering his second year as head coach of the Jazz, Hardy doesn’t have to worry about learning the names of the members of the team medical and training staff, and he has established relationships with a number of players who are returning to the roster. That familiarity eases the nerves. That’s where the comfort is.

But the Jazz roster, once again, has a lot of new faces. Those new players, including rookies, alongside an incoming veteran, nonguaranteed players fighting for their NBA lives, and others trying to carve out a role in the rotation have Hardy preparing himself and the team for a high-stakes, competitive training camp.

“I sort of know what training camp is gonna look like and I would describe it as ‘The Hunger Games,’” Hardy said on Friday. “It’s going to be vicious, and I am excited about that.”

At the guard position the Jazz have Jordan Clarkson, Talen Horton-Tucker, Collin Sexton, Kris Dunn and Keyonte George. Simply put, there aren’t enough minutes for everyone to play every night. Within that group, Horton-Tucker and Sexton are still trying to find their NBA niche, Dunn is on a nonguaranteed deal, and George is a rookie trying to prove he can be the lead guard of the future.

Meanwhile, the Jazz are going to have to figure out what their system looks like with John Collins, especially when he’s playing alongside Walker Kessler and Lauri Markkanen and how that changes when it’s Kelly Olynyk on the court rather than Collins, or what it looks like when Kessler is not on the court.

Utah Jazz launch Jazz+ streaming service. Here are the details
Here’s what the Utah Jazz are hatching for 50th anniversary season

Oh, and then there’s Luka Samanic, who is on a nonguaranteed deal, and rookie Taylor Hendricks, who is going to want to live up to the billing of being a lottery pick. Don’t forget that Ochai Agbaji is going to want to establish himself as a meaningful part of the rotation, building off the late-season success he had last year. Then there’s All-Star Markkanen, who is supposed to come into this season as the leader of this Jazz team.

There are going to be a lot of players on this Jazz team that are trying to prove that they are the one that deserves time. It’s Hardy’s job to not only decide who gets that time, but also to manage the personalities and expectations of this team.

“Individual motives are good and powerful, and we need to lean into those,” Hardy said. “But we also have to remember that we have 82 games coming and that we’re all wearing the same jersey.”

It’s unlikely that all roster and rotation decisions will be ironed out and set in stone by the end of training camp. In fact, it’s unlikely that some of the rotation decisions will be set in stone for a while.

The Jazz are prioritizing flexibility for the 2023-24 season. Hardy and the Jazz front office are hoping they can get the players to buy into a system that stresses flexibility.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Hardy said. “We could be the team that changes the starting lineup once every 10 days just based on a matchup. If we can get our team to think about that as something that’s OK, then that’s going to be great for us. It’s a strength.”

The NBA’s new resting rules might make star players play on national TV, but it doesn’t fix the root problem

Flexibility will be imperative for the Jazz this year — for the front office, for the coaching staff and for the players.

Players are going to have to accept different roles than they’ve had before and be ready to take on more or less responsibility depending on the day. Coaches are going to have to be open to mixing and matching combinations of players and trying out things that are a little outside of the box. Jazz CEO Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik are going to need to be flexible in their short- and long-term ideas based on how the team performs.

“Training camp is just the beginning of it for us to kind of figure out initially who’s going to be in what role and see where that works,” Zanik said. “There has to be a culture of flexibility and an understanding that we’re, as a collective group, trying to win every game and compete. And some days, it’s going to be a particular set of eight or nine players and another game, it may be a different set of eight or nine players, and then continuing on that journey.”

That is how the Jazz maximize this season. That’s how they find out what they have and where the gaps are in the roster in order to make a plan for the future.

And it all starts Tuesday, with a “vicious” training camp.

Utah Jazz head coach Will Hardy speaks at a press conference at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News