Asked Friday what encouragement he could offer or helpful suggestions he could make to new teammate Bojan Bogdanovic to help him get over his rough preseason performance, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was blunt.
“I mean, I haven’t been good in preseason — a lot of us haven’t been good in preseason,” Gobert said. “It’s all about keep working and getting ready.”
After closing out the preseason with their fourth consecutive defeat on Wednesday night, the Jazz spent Friday afternoon getting to work on actually fixing what has gone wrong.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that while there’s urgency to get those issues resolved, there is no sense of panic about their existence.
“Obviously, people are gonna question our defense, but that’s what we hang our hat on, so I’m not too worried,” forward Georges Niang said.
Given that, it was hardly a groundbreaking revelation when both Gobert and Niang mentioned that the nearly-three-hour session was indeed mostly devoted to work on that side of the ball.
Asked what needed to improve, the Frenchman initially responded, “Mostly the effort,” before then rattling off a few “little things.”
“Me giving up a layup on a C.J. [McCollum] or Dame [Lillard] drive, being physical on the ball, contesting the shots. Little details that will help us go from giving up three points to getting a stop,” Gobert said. “It’s those little details that are gonna define if you’re gonna be an average defensive team or a great defensive team.”
And make no mistake about it, the Jazz still intend to be the latter.
Niang pointed out some things to be improved as well, such as, “Not letting teams shoots 3s, not letting teams get points at the rim.”
But in his estimation, the biggest culprit behind the defensive woes to this point has been the need for new players to master the terminology, and the team as a whole improving its communication.
“You’re coming to a new place; picking up new terminology is not the easiest. It takes time to understand what words mean on the court and where you’re supposed to be when those calls are called up,” Niang said. “That stuff takes time. But after today, I’m really not worried — I think we’ve done a great job of getting those guys in sync, and they understand where they need to be and where we all need to be.”
Along those lines, Gobert actually did have some things to say to and about Bogdanovic, whose struggles to acclimate were pretty well encapsulated by a one-point, one-assist performance in the loss to Portland.
“The only thing we’re telling him is just to keep shooting the ball. I’ve been watching him for awhile, so I know he’s a competitor and he wants to win. I have no doubt that he’s gonna be good for us,” Gobert said. “Even some nights [if] he doesn’t make shots, just his presence on the court is a big plus for us. And he knows that.”
Jazz pick up options on Mitchell, Bradley
It was reported on Thursday night that the Jazz were expected to exercise the fourth-year contact options on both star guard Donovan Mitchell and reserve center Tony Bradley.
On Friday, the team made it happen.
The moves ensure both players will be on the Jazz through at least the 2020-21 seasons. Mitchell will be paid $5,195,501 and Bradley $3,542,060 for that season.
If Utah does not reach contract extensions with them next season, they would become restricted free agents thereafter, with the Jazz having the right to match any offer the players got from another team.