SALT LAKE CITY — At the NBA bubble in Orlando, there were designated pool patios for players to take ice baths after practices and games. The patios, featuring numerous small inflatable pools, were often congregating areas for the players around the NBA.
And just about every time Donovan Mitchell had to brave the ice-cold water, Matt Thomas would be at the patio, too. In fact, Thomas — due to him hanging around fellow Iowa State alum Georges Niang — spent a lot of time with the Jazz as a whole during the strange summer experience.
"We've actually gotten to know each other pretty well," Mitchell said of his newest Utah teammate. "He's a great person first and foremost."
Thomas, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, officially made his Jazz debut Saturday against the Grizzlies, just a little more than a day after arriving in Utah. It wasn't a spectacular start — he was 0 for 3 and had three turnovers in the four minutes of mop-up time he played in the Jazz's rout of Memphis — but he doesn't think that's how the rest of his time in Utah will be.
Despite the less-than-stellar debut, his optimism for the new opportunity he has with the Jazz was nowhere close to wearing off following the game. In his first media session since being traded to Utah by the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a future second-round pick, Thomas called his style of play a "perfect fit" for Quin Snyder's system. He also detailed how excited he is to be joining the "best team in league" and that he's looking forward to exploring the outdoors of Utah.
How have you been acclimating to the team and what are your early impressions of your teammates?
Thomas: "It's been a crazy 48 hours now since I got the news, roughly. It's been wild packing up your life and moving across country, then just trying to get acclimated to the team and my teammates and obviously, like the system and the plays and everything. I'm just trying to do everything I can to pick things up — ask questions and my teammates have been amazing and the same with the coaching staff just top down. It's a first-class organization and it's no coincidence why we're the No. 1 team in the league, have the best record in the league, and have consistently been going to the playoffs every single year."
How has Georges Niang being on the team helped with the initial acclimation process?
Thomas: "Yeah, I mean having Georges is obviously huge for me. We played three years together at Iowa State and we grew that friendship then and have been really close friends ever since. And actually in the bubble just from me being around Georges and grabbing breakfast with him or a meal or stuff, I was actually around other guys from the Jazz. I know Donovan, I met him out there and got to know him a little bit, and Joe and just a few other guys. We all had like ice baths out by the pool together, a bunch of the team. So there were times where we were all together, and that just gave us some familiarity with each other, and that's helping me adapt and adjust a little bit quicker as well."
How do you think you fit in with what the Jazz do?
Thomas: "I think the way I play is a perfect fit for the way the Jazz play. Coach Q likes to play fast and get up a lot of 3s, and that's what I love to do. That's what I'm best at doing and that's why I'm in the league, right? They play the right way, they make the extra pass, everyone can kind of shoot, pass and dribble, and it's a really really dynamic offense. Defensively, you have the best big in the league with Rudy (Gobert) and just being able to kind of funnel everything to him, and I think it's just a really good fit — not only for me as a player, but as a person. I think I'm going to fit in really well with the way guys are on this team, just the personalities of his team and just the values and everything that they stand for."
How familiar are you with what the Jazz run?
Thomas: "I'm starting to catch on. I had a little walkthrough this morning and tried to pick up as much as I could but that's all I've gotten so far. I'm just trying to be a sponge and watch and learn while I'm not in the game. With my relationship with George. I've always watched the Jazz when they're on TV or tried to follow them when I could so that also gives me a little leg up just kind of knowing how they play."
What do you know about Utah?
Thomas: "I don't know a ton. I was just asked if I'd been here outside of the NBA. At Iowa State, we played BYU my freshman year in Provo — that was the only other time in Utah. I love the outdoors and obviously with the mountains here and there's a bunch of cool national parks. So that stuff that I can definitely get into in the offseason."
What was your immediate reaction when you found out you were on your way to the Jazz?
Thomas: "I was actually on the golf course, playing golf when I found out. So, all of a sudden, my phone's blowing up, talked to my agent and talking to the front office people with the Raptors and then also with the Jazz. I had to get off the course pretty quick because obviously I was going to be on a flight here in the next 12 hours but I was excited because I'm joining the best team in the league.
"And I keep saying it, I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I do think it's a perfect fit for me in the way I play, and also just from a personality and just like a teammate standpoint, I think I'm just gonna fit in really well with the guys here, so I'm really excited about the move and I'm really looking forward to the run we're gonna make this season."