SALT LAKE CITY — Early in a video conference with media on Sunday, Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder had an admission: His answers were going to be pretty vague.
It wasn’t that he was trying to hide things. He's just in the process of figuring everything out himself.
How will players react after a long hiatus? Will three weeks of training camp be enough? How will the Jazz handle life without Bojan Bogdanovic? Will the team lighten minutes to rotation players to avoid injuries? How can players quickly reconnect after months apart? How should they use the eight seeding games to give them the best chance in the playoffs?
There are a lot of questions on the basketball side (not to mention the social issues that hit very close to home to many of the players and the worldwide pandemic everyone is hoping doesn’t seep into the bubble.) And right now, there’s not a whole lot of answers. At least not specific ones.
“There are so many variables and that doesn't mean we're not thinking about them,” Snyder said Sunday. “You're not going into it blind saying, ‘Oh, wow, I wonder what's gonna happen.’ It almost requires you to plan even more because it can be a little bit of a maze, and you try to figure out if you make a left turn how quickly can you go back and make a right turn if you run into a dead end.”
The Jazz will fly to Orlando on Tuesday where they will finally be able to practice as a full team for the first time since the league was shut down on March 11. Jazz players have been permitted to enter the team’s practice facility since early May, but only for individual workouts.
Some Utah players didn’t return to Salt Lake City until pretty recently. For some, that meant months of not really having access to regular training facilities.
“I had my garage, my little dumbbells, a treadmill, and a bike for the whole time,” Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell sad.
That’s led to concerns over the health, with players feeling they have to go from quarantine to competing in playoff games without much time in between. Snyder is aware of those concerns and said the Jazz will adjust what they do in practice and in games to help keep guys healthy. What does that look like? Again, that’s a work in progress.
“The word that comes to mind for me lately is nimble,” Snyder said. “We have to be nimble in our ability to make adjustments, make them quickly. We may discover things about our team the first scrimmage. At the same time, I think to be focused on our health — I don't think that means you don't play people or you don't compete in games — but it's something that we're aware of and we monitor.”
Snyder said figuring out how to replace Bogdanovic — who Snyder said was definitely going to be out for the entire run in Orlando — has been a big part of the Jazz’s preparation for the restart. He said his absence will impact the Jazz in numerous ways — players’ usage ratings will go up and rotations will change affected. Royce O’Neale is expected to jump into the starting lineup in place of Bogdanovic.
“We may look a little bit different defensively,” Snyder said. “And then how can we score? He's one of the top shooters in the league and can score in the post can score a variety of way so I think guys will begin to have a feel for one another and how this team functions as we get on the court and practice, scrimmage, then play.”
The Jazz could be without Mike Conley for a portion of a playoff series as well. Conley’s wife Mary is due with the couple’s third child in late August and the point guard is planning on leaving Orlando for the birth. If Conley does leave the bubble, he will have to be quarantined for four days upon returning.
“I hope we're without him for as long as he needs to prioritize something that is a gift,” Snyder said. “And I'm glad he's gonna be there. I don't think it's even a hope to be there. I think he needs to be there.”
How will the Jazz handle his absence?
Add that to the list of things Snyder and Co. will need to figure out.