On their first day together as a team, the Utah Jazz were given a quick lesson on the challenges that the 2020-21 NBA season will present.
The Jazz gathered on Friday for the first real day of training camp with the team finally allowed to conduct a full practice as a group, but the group wasn’t whole. Two players — one being Mike Conley — were missing from the group due to COVID-19 testing protocols. The name of the second player was not released.
The NBA has given teams a host of guidelines and instituted protocols regarding COVID-19 testing that can keep a player from missing team activities for many different reasons. If a player tests positive, if their test results have yet to come back, if they missed a test or even if they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive, it could lead to missing practice or being isolated from the team.
Conley confirmed that he was one of the players who missed practice on Friday and said that he is in quarantined because he came in close contact with a family member who tested positive for the coronavirus. Conley said that he has tested negative for the virus multiple times and has to continue doing so until Monday when he expects to return a seventh and final negative COVID-19 test.
The Jazz did not detail the reason the second, unnamed player was unable to take part in practice Friday, but it’s very likely not the last time they’ll have to deal with something like this.
“I’m going through it right now firsthand and it’s gonna be a different year for sure,” Conley said. “In my situation right now, I’m not positive for COVID at all but effectively I’m going to miss eight to 10 days, not doing anything, instead sitting in a room. So that kind of stuff is hard to prepare for.”
No matter how hard it is to plan for the uncertainty that the 2020-21 season is going to come with, at a certain point the players and coaching staff is just going to have to accept that these are the cards they’re being dealt.
“Probably throughout the season that’s going to happen,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “Hopefully it doesn’t happen much, if at all. ... It’s kind of a new normal, and I think the way to best maximize what you can do with it is to accept it and to really focus forward.”
Since it was the first day back there wasn’t too much detail thrown at the players. Instead it was a time to refresh themselves after a short offseason, introduce new faces, welcome back familiar ones and look at the bigger picture.
“We’re talking about continued improvement,” Snyder said. “Getting back together was the first step in that, just to have guys have a chance to even be around each other on a most basic kind of human social level.”
Bojan Bogdanovic back in action
After six months of rehabbing from surgery on his right wrist, Bojan Bogdanovic was a full participant in practice Friday and it sounds like it went pretty well.
“He was able to do everything,” Snyder said before joking about the stoic Croatian sharpshooter. “He was excited, as much as Bojan can show his excitement. He looked pretty enthusiastic.”
The Jazz’s health performance staff along with team doctors will of course be monitoring Bogdanovic as practice continues and as the 2020-21 season nears, but it’s a good sign that he was able to return to full-contact work and it went off without a hitch.
Derrick Favors getting reacquainted
The first day of team activities allowed the Jazz to truly welcome back Derrick Favors after his one-year stint in New Orleans.
Once again wearing jersey No. 15, Favors said at first it felt a little weird, but once he was in the gym and they started running plays he remembered, all the familiarity came flooding back.
“Coming back and just seeing the coaches and the players, getting back to familiar with the system and just being in the gym it just felt regular again,” Favors said. “I was happy and excited to be back to practice.”
Though there is a lot that’s similar from the last time Favors played with the Jazz, there are some new faces in Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Bogdanovic but Favors isn’t worried about getting used to his new role or to gelling with his new teammates.
“I was watching when I was in New Orleans and I was like man those guys can really put the ball in the basket and space the floor,” Favors said. “They just bring something different to the team offensively that when I was here we didn’t have. I’m pretty excited to play with them.”
The NBA is less than three weeks away from the opening of the 2020-21 season which the Jazz will begin on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 23.