There’s no question that Rudy and Donovan are excited about Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, and the fact that they get to participate in it. Asked at Wednesday morning’s shootaround if the fact that he is an All-Star has sunk in yet, Donovan quickly replied, “No! I’m not gonna lie to you.”
But then, there’s a good reason for that: The Jazz players have been focused on … well, the Jazz.
“Playing the tougher teams that we have, you can’t really reflect on [the All-Star Game,” the guard added. “… The five-game skid made it easier for me to forget.”
Rudy, meanwhile, acknowledged that while he’s looking forward to bringing some family to the game, then taking a few days off “somewhere sunny, where I can get a tan,” he’s not about to overlook the Jazz’s final pre-break game tonight against Miami.
“It’s very important for us to go into the break on a high note. I don’t think we’re going to appreciate it as much if we lose tonight," he said. "I think the mentally tougher team is going to win — we’ve got to show that’s us.”
Donovan, meanwhile, was similarly keeping the bigger picture in mind.
“I’m excited about it … but it’s bigger than just one All-Star Game,” he said. "We still haven’t made it past the second round [of the playoffs]. So we need to stay ready and stay locked in.
In case you missed it
Ever noticed during timeouts how the players are talking amongst themselves on the bench, the coaches are talking amongst themselves on the court, and then the two groups merge together and … talk amongst themselves? Andy B. Larsen delves into what is happening during all these communication sessions, and why they matter.
Meanwhile, this week, USA Basketball named both Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley among the 44 “finalists” to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. That list will eventually be whittled down to a final 12. As for some guys who are in a completely different stage of their careers, the Jazz’s three second-round picks from the 2019 draft are navigating the difficulties of alternating between the G League and the NBA.
Columnist Gordon Monson wrote about the instant impact Jordan Clarkson has had since being acquired by the Jazz in December. Speaking of Gordon, I was a guest on “The Big Show” with Gordon and Jake Scott on 97.5 FM/1280 AM Tuesday afternoon. I followed that up with an appearance on the Bill Riley Show on ESPN 700 today.
Other people’s stuff
• Tony Jones of The Athletic wrote about how Mike Conley’s return necessitated Emmanuel Mudiay’s exit from the rotation, but that both the guard and the team are anticipating his future usefulness to them (on account of injuries, foul trouble, et cetera).
• John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a look at how the trade deadline wound up impacting free agency this summer. Jazz spoiler alert: If Conley opts out unexpectedly, they’ll have about $30M in cap space; if he doesn’t, they’re pretty well locked into the full midlevel exception.
• ESPN’s Tim MacMahon went into some extra detail on Bogey’s tough game-winning trey against the Rockets on Sunday, noting that Bogdanovic is now the only player this season with multiple game-winning buzzer-beaters, and that he celebrated this particular one by cursing in Croatian afterwards.
• Sarah Todd of the Deseret News compares and contrasts the Jazz with tonight’s opponent, the Miami Heat, who come in with an identical record and two All-Star players, but who have also dropped four of their past five games.
• Sean Walker of KSL spoke to Damian Lillard before last week’s Jazz-Blazers histrionics, and the Weber State product said Utah retains a special place in his heart.
As previously mentioned, the Jazz are taking on the Heat tonight at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The last time these teams squared off, back on Dec. 23 in Miami, the Jazz traded Dante Exum for Clarkson before the game, then waived Jeff Green and signed Rayjon Tucker afterward. No similar roster shenanigans are expected tonight. Following the Heat matchup, Donovan and Rudy are off to Chicago for Sunday’s All-Star Game. The Jazz won’t return to action, though, until Friday, Feb. 21, when the San Antonio Spurs come to town.
And finally …
I’m heading off to Chicago on Thursday to bring y’all some All-Star weekend coverage. It’s my first time covering All-Star stuff (wish me luck!), but my fourth time in Chicago. I’ve got some good memories there, partly because of having some extended family on my wife’s side there, but also because that’s where I first saw a Slash-Axl-Duff incarnation of Guns N’ Roses in concert for the first time.
Speaking of which, I know Chicago doesn’t typically get lumped in with L.A. or New York or Nashville as a music city, but there’s been some big-time talent to come out of there — Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, Kanye West, Wilco, Fall Out Boy, Ministry … even the appropriately-monikered Chicago! Of course, the Windy City also gave us Disturbed and Richard Marx, so demerits for that. Anyway, I’ll leave you with three awesome (and awesomely disparate) songs from Chicago-originating artists: First up, “I Want You to Want Me,” by Cheap Trick. Next, let’s go a little more alt-rock, with “1979” from The Smashing Pumpkins. And finally, an all-time R&B banger — “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.