SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz arrived at the NBA bubble on July 7, isolated in their hotel rooms for two days, then held their first practice in nearly four months. After six consecutive days on the court the team took a day off on Wednesday. On Saturday, they took their second day off from practice.
Going to Orlando was always going to be a learning experience. That’s not only true for players, but also for coaches and Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder has not been immune to the learning curve.
“You’re conscious of days off,” he said. “For our performance staff, that’s something we really have to be mindful of. I think the assumption is that because we were out so long and not playing at the end of the regular season, it feels like there’s shorter time to prepare. The reality is there’s actually more time. We had four days of training camp before playing preseason games.”
The Jazz have six more days before exhibition games begin, with their first scrimmage against the Phoenix Suns on July 23. It’s another week after that before the NBA season restarts on July 30.
“You want to practice and you want to practice hard but you want to be fresh and be mentally fresh as well,” Snyder said.
In addition to the number of practice days and how to balance those, the Jazz have been contending with a number of variables in which they are trying to find the perfect balance.
The players showed up in great shape as far as conditioning goes but there’s still some fear about being ready for the burst movements in games and some of the things that regular weight training can help prepare the body for. This was a big concern of Donovan Mitchell’s leading up to the team leaving for the bubble and Mitchell has mentioned it as a concern even after going through practices in Orlando.
The Jazz shipped a large part of their weight room to Orlando so that players would have equipment they’re familiar with. But, the majority of the Jazz’s practices have been in the evening, often making lifting sessions difficult as it starts to get late.
Then there’s the conundrum of how the Jazz spend their practice time. Snyder noted early on that the ramp-up to the NBA season restart is not like a typical September training camp, and furthermore admitted that this experience may change the way he approaches future preseason training camps.
“Early in the year, in training camp, we had so many new players that I coached our team a little bit like a younger team,” Snyder said. “Looking back on that, I may have done it a little differently. This time, we did do it differently.”
While including some refreshers and walk-throughs to get the guys re-acclimated to the Jazz’s schemes and sets, and changing some things up because of the absence of Bojan Bogdanovic, Snyder has, for the most part, just been letting the players run the court and get a feel for the game in a more fluid way.
Even with that free-flowing feeling, the NBA always throws curveballs and the Jazz will have more of them to deal with and adjust to as the next few weeks unfold.
Georges Niang fully participated in practice on Thursday for the first time since being in Orlando after rolling his ankle just before the team left Utah. The injury was minor and he sat out mostly as a precautionary measure, but that put another wrench in Snyder’s planning, forcing him to again find a balance with the way he coaches the team through practice.
“Adjustments in general are such a part of this game,” Snyder said. “There’s an adjustment first with Bojan being out and then not having an opportunity to have Georges in a practice. ... That balance between doing what you do and trying to do it better, and making adjustments that you know are going to help your team — how much of that really can they absorb in a short period of time?”
With that in mind, Snyder has had to make sure he doesn’t overwhelm the players with too many drastic changes. He knew Niang was going to return to the team, he knows that Niang will be a part of the rotation moving forward, so he just tweaked a few small things and continued to let the team play.
The balance extends beyond the court as well. During the quarantine period, before the Jazz went to Orlando, Snyder said that he found great value in changing up some of the ways that the team watches and analyzes film. It can often be difficult in a room full of players and himself looking at a clip to get any one person to speak up.
What the Jazz coaching staff found was that breaking into smaller groups and giving guys film assignments lent itself to more lively conversations and vocal players.
It’s important to note that the Jazz are not the only ones dealing with curveballs, finding ways to adjust and seeking the perfect balance. All 22 of the teams in Orlando are in the same boat. It could very well be that the team whose coaching staff is able to do those things most effectively and efficiently will be the one that comes out on top.