Martin Luther King Jr. Day is one of the most notable days on the NBA calendar, with 14 games scattered throughout the day. Players wear special MLK shirts during warmups; this year, they bear the quote “We Cannot Walk Alone” from King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
The Jazz also held a workshop and basketball clinic at Vivint Arena early Monday, for seventh- and eighth-grade students. Participants in the workshop received tickets for the game later against the Pacers.
Guard Donovan Mitchell also wore a special edition of his Don Issue No. 1 sneakers for the game, honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, an African-American group of fighter pilots who saw action in World War II. Their last flight was in 1945 — No. 45 is also Mitchell’s jersey number.
“It’s pretty special to me,” Mitchell said.
Royce O’Neale’s list
Jazz coach Quin Snyder really values the versatility he gets from Royce O’Neale, the wing who signed a four-year, $36 million extension on Sunday. In fact, he put a list of players O’Neale has had to guard on a board about a month ago, showing his team exactly what O’Neale does for them.
“It was right down the line. Just pick someone from the All-Star game upcoming and Royce probably had to guard them," Snyder said.
O’Neale earned those assignments pretty quickly, after being signed as the 15th man in the summer of 2017.
“We were in Washington,” Snyder remembered, “and he was gaining everyone’s trust by being so committed and good defensively. That’s how he got out on the floor. He was smart in that regard.”
“The best thing that you can say about Royce is that he helps your team win games. It’s rare to have a guy that selfless ... to truly not care about anything but winning.”
More details on O’Neale’s contract were reported on Monday. According to The Athletic’s John Hollinger, O’Neale has a partially guaranteed fourth year of his contract: Only $2.5 million is guaranteed in 2023-24. Between now and then, he’ll earn $8.5M in 2020-21, $8.8M in 2021-22, $9.2M in 2022-23, and a possible $9.5M in 2023-24.
That’s a good deal for the Jazz, giving them more flexibility down the road if need be, while still keeping one of their best role players. O’Neale’s final guaranteed year at $9.2M represents only 7 percent of an estimated $131 million cap in 2022-23.