The first day of practice.
It’s always a great occasion in NBA circles, welcomed by coaches and players. Media day is finished. The first preseason game is on the horizon, and it’s time to truly get to work.
The Utah Jazz did just that on Tuesday morning in their newly renovated facility. And Jazz coach Quin Snyder was as predictable as any in emphasizing what his team worked on for roughly 90 minutes.
Hint. They didn’t work very much on the offense.
“We worked a lot on defense and rotations,” Snyder said with a wry smile. “The first day is always a step. It’s a first step. We have a lot of work to do, but we say that almost every year. The important thing is we finally get to focus on practice.”
The Jazz practiced twice on Tuesday and are scheduled for another two-a-day on Wednesday before slimming down to one practice on Thursday. Drills will take up much of the practice time, but the team will also be able to implement a significant portion of the offense.
This is important for a Utah team with new faces to integrate. For the third straight season, the Jazz will have a different starter at point guard, this time Ricky Rubio. The second unit will be almost exclusively comprised of new faces, including rookie guard Donovan Mitchell and veteran small forward Thabo Sefalosha.
But Jazz vets like Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood are all familiar with Snyder’s system. No longer is everyone getting to know each other. There are now multiple players on the roster who have been with Snyder for at least three years.
“It helps that we have guys that have been here,” Snyder said. “There’s some corporate knowledge that guys have, and hopefully they can help with the new guys and bring them a long a little faster.”
The Jazz have made a habit of bringing in famous basketball minds to watch practice, and then pick their brains afterwards.
Tom Thibadeau dropped by two years ago, before he went to the Minnesota Timberwolves. On Tuesday it was former Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Kupchak and former Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor are close friends. Snyder looks at Kupchak as a mentor from his time in the Lakers organization as an assistant coach.
“He was someone who was always open to talk to me and give me advice whenever I needed it,” Snyder said. “Any time we can get someone in here with that storied a career who has an opportunity with time to come to practice, you have to do it. He’s someone who will be able to do anything he wants.”
Filling the roster
The Jazz on Tuesday signed free agent small forward Taylor Braun. He becomes the 20th — and final — member of Utah’s training camp roster.
Braun, a 6-foot-7 wing, played in college at North Dakota State, and in Germany last season, where he averaged eight points and almost four rebounds a game.