Indianapolis • There’s just one Jazzman who is home for the holidays — at least, where Thanksgiving is concerned — Mike Conley.
That’s because the Jazz will spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Memphis this year, a day ahead of when they play their second contest in two weeks at the FedEx Forum. And that game comes after Wednesday’s matchup in Indianapolis, where Conley went to high school at Lawrence North. So many of his friends and family will attend the Jazz’s game against the Pacers, then fly to Memphis to spend Thanksgiving with Conley in his adopted home of 12 years.
“We’re going to spend as much time as we can while we can down there, try to keep as normal as possible,” Conley said.
For everyone else? Memphis isn’t home. Some players will have family fly in for the occasion anyway, but for most, family on this Thanksgiving will mean teammates and coaches, at least for this week. The team will fly together from Indianapolis to Memphis, and when the team lands, they have a special dinner and celebration planned, provided by a popular Memphis restaurant.
"My son asked me if I was going to be home for Thanksgiving. “I told him ‘no’, because I’m not,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “But someone is, and someone else isn’t. We’ve been [here] before.”
With schedules up in the air, Jazz families find ways to celebrate holidays later, when everyone is home together in Salt Lake City. Snyder said a run of Jazz trips on Easter forced his family to make adjustments:
“We had Easter Monday for a while,” Snyder said. “Until the cat got out of the bag and the kids found out it was actually on Sunday.”
Yes, traveling on holidays is sometimes the downside for those in the NBA, though the upside is rewarding: a job they love.
“You step back from it and you love what you’re doing,” Snyder said. “And playing on Christmas Day, that can be an exciting thing. Like any business, there are certain business trips you like more than others.”
One Thanksgiving tradition for the Utah Jazz has been charitable acts around Salt Lake City. This year, because the team is on a five-game, nine-day road trip over that schedule, the 21st annual Thanksgiving Dinner for homeless at Vivint Arena was hosted by Larry H. Miller Group of Companies employees, sans the players. This year, they gave away around 3,000 Thanksgiving dinners, especially appreciated because of the snowstorm falling at the same time.
“The need is great for those who have fallen on hard times,” Jazz owner Gail Miller said. "Our goal is to show love and empathy for our brothers and sisters by opening the doors to Vivint Smart Home Arena and providing a warm meal.”
A few players hosted their own Thanksgiving charity events before the trip. Georges Niang gave away 200 Thanksgiving meals at Parkview Elementary in Salt Lake City, and center Tony Bradley gifted 125 meals to families at the Capitol West Boys and Girls club. A group of the G-League’s Salt Lake City Stars helped hand out meals at the Miller Family Boys and Girls Club in Murray. Even the Utah Jazz Dancers got into the swing of giving, by hosting a charity dance clinic where admission was free with a food donation to the Utah Food Bank.
All but the dancer clinic took place on Nov. 21 — last Thursday — as maybe a small, proxy Thanksgiving before the calendar date comes around this week.
“You figure out creative ways. Different things become part of the holiday,” Snyder said. “The ideal thing would be if it were like when you’re back in school, when you’re worried about Christmas break and is it long enough. ‘We got out the 18th last year, and now we’re getting out on the 21st?’”
Snyder’s probably not alone in remembering the glory times of getting a week — or more — off for the holidays. That isn’t the case for most adults anymore either, but yes, the Jazz would love to be home for Thanksgiving. That they’re not?
“Everybody loves the holidays, and we’re no different,” Snyder said. “But it’s part of the job.”
JAZZ VS. PACERS
At Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Tipoff • Wednesday, 6 p.m. MT
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 11-6; Pacers 10-6
Last meeting • Pacers, 121-88 (Nov. 26)
About the Jazz • Ed Davis is still out after fracturing his fibula at the beginning of the month, scheduled to be re-evaluated next week. ... Rudy Gobert missed the last two games due to a sprained left ankle. ... guard Dante Exum was a DNP-CD in Monday’s game against the Bucks. ... Mike Conley is averaging 16.0 points and 4.8 assists per game in the month of November
About the Pacers • Victor Oladipo remains out without a timetable for return thanks to a quadriceps injury suffered last year. ... JaKarr Sampson missed the Pacers’ game against the Grizzlies on Monday due to a back injury. ... Edmond Sumner is out due to a fracture in his right hand. ... New signing Malcolm Brogdon leads the Pacers by scoring 18.8 points per game, while Domantas Sabonis is second with 18.6 points per game