It was Donovan Mitchell who let on about Jordan Clarkson’s pregame warmup routine.
“If you pay attention to his routine, it’s very uncanny. It’s, like, very different in his approaches to shots,” Mitchell said.
As Mitchell explained, there’s really two schools of thought in pregame warmups. He referred to the way Kyle Korver completed his warmups in Utah, where he was “very methodical and very particular in how he gets his shots.” Meanwhile, there’s the Clarkson school: “J.C. is more like free, go out there and kind of play loose.”
Since then, I’ve been watching the pregame routines of every player in the Jazz’s rotation, to compare and contrast them all. Here’s what I found:
Mike Conley doesn’t have superior athleticism or height at his position, so he needs to rely on trickery and skill to score. His warmup reflects that. We counted 18 different ways he tried to score in his warmup routine — not 18 different spots on the floor, but 18 different styles of shot. There are the usual catch-and-shoot looks from midrange, 3-point shots, and even transition pull-ups, but that’s not what’s most notable.
The most expansive part of his warmup comes when he simulates coming off a screen. He works on his pick and roll pull-up three game, then his pick and roll floater, coming from screens in the left, right, and center of the floor. Then he works on his floater fake where he hesitates, looks at the rim from floater range, then finishes with a layup: first on one side of the hoop, then a reverse. Still not done, he then does the same but “Nashes” all the way under the basket to 3-point range, where he takes a corner three, with Jazz assistant coach Lamar Skeeter trailing him all the way.
Donovan Mitchell’s warmup is similar, but involves fewer dribbles. With Beats-brand headphones on instead of Conley’s Airpods, Mitchell takes many of the shots he’s most likely to take in game, working with assistant coach Johnnie Bryant. He goes around screens and practices pull-up threes going right and left. Then he practices the 16-20 foot pullup jump shots he’ll frequently take, both with and without a crossover.
Mitchell frequently plays with various kids during his warmup. He’ll ask someone from the first few rows to come rebound for him, or wave to youngsters as he works. Once, I saw him do an airplane-esque celebration after a few makes to earn a smile from someone.
Bojan Bogdanovic sometimes wears Donovan Mitchell’s signature shoes while he warms up. As you’d expect, much of his work is built around his outside shooting game. Bogdanovic will start from the half-court line and run up, stopping on a dime from 23 to 30 feet out to shoot from deep. Then, he’ll do the opposite, working on his step-back three in isolation situations while being guarded by Jazz assistant coach Zach Guthrie.
There are catch-and-shoot threes, of course, but Bogdanovic also practices the relocation three, where he’s on the move to the corner or the wing when he catches the ball. Then, closeout-busting threes, where takes one dribble and moves to the side to evade an imaginary closeout defender.
Royce O’Neale knows his offensive game isn’t going to involve screens, unlike Mitchell’s and Conley’s, so he works on what he does on the court: making threes and attacking closeouts. His passes come from across the court, so he’s used to the angle and velocity, then he’ll take threes from all around the arc.
He also works on his ability to finish through contact in a variety of circumstances, perhaps from the late-arriving defenders he’ll face as he completes his straight-line drives to the rim. Finishes off either foot and through contact applied by coach Skeeter are a major part of the workout.
Rudy Gobert’s warmup also is all about his ability to finish and maintain balance around the rim. He begins with shots with one leg up, like a flamingo, sometimes involving a hop. Then, he’ll practice finishes while being bumped by Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen. Some involve him catching the ball high in the paint, some from the “dunker” spot along the baseline. Another assistant coach, DeSagana Diop, is sometimes used as a rim protector.
Then, he works on the shots we don’t see as much in game: Steven Adams-esque push shots after catching the ball on the roll. Two-dribble drives and finishes from the perimeter. Post-up situations where he’s catching the ball from about 10 feet out.
Quin Snyder breaks up the warmups into three categories: “today, tomorrow, and too late.” Gobert begins by working on the finishes he’s capable of today, and finishes with the ones he’s capable of tomorrow. He doesn’t work much on the 3-point shot — it’s probably too late for Gobert to develop one of those in his career.
Joe Ingles’ warmup reflects his game, too. Like Bogdanovic’s, Ingles’ routine is heavy on the 3-point game. He works on coming off screens and hitting threes in either direction — the right-leaning three a new addition that Ingles was aggressive with during the Jazz’s big winning streak. Of course, there’s all sorts of catch-and-shoot threes too in both the corners and the wings.
Georges Niang’s game is also three-point heavy, but in different ways: he’s hit many of his threes in transition opportunities this year. So in his warmup, he’ll sprint to each corner, then catch as he’s running, set his feet, and shoot as quickly as he can — it usually goes in. But he also works on attacking closeouts, finishing through contact like O’Neale. He has a Eurostep, too, that he’ll try a few times.
Tony Bradley’s warmup is pretty similar to Gobert’s, but their finishes are surprisingly different. Bradley’s go-to is a little quick two-foot push shot, one that can almost surprise the opposition. He also works on layups and reverse layups from either side of the basket: while Bradley’s hands are superior, he can miss an easy one from time to time.
This isn’t always part of his routine, but my favorite workout I’ve seen Bradley do is a pump-fake drill with assistant coach Vince Legarza. Legarza will pump-pump-pump-pump fake with Bradley standing a foot away until he finally jumps for a shot, and Bradley has to stay patient, ready to explode when Legarza actually shoots and not a second before then. Bradley sometimes wins, sometimes loses, but he’s getting better.
Then there’s Jordan Clarkson’s workout.
Where most guards have a ton of catch-and-shoot practice, Clarkson has very little. Instead, he’ll try different kinds of midrange and 3-point shots, gathering the ball in different ways. One time, he’ll go behind his back from left to right, then shoot. Then he’ll try left-to-right. Then he’ll go between the legs. He’ll take his shots on the move, or stand still. He’ll get into post-up fadeaway games with Bryant, who will swipe at the ball or contest his shot. There’s an element of randomness
“I just kind of freestyle, you know, just whatever I’m feeling that night,” Clarkson explained. “It’s stuff that I’m going to be taking in the game or I feel like might happen. Everything else is just kind of feel. I’m just, you know, free playing.”
Sometimes, though, that earns good-natured jokes from his teammates.
“I make fun of him,” Mitchell said about Clarkson’s workout. “I say he kind of gets it from J.R. Smith, being up there in Cleveland.”
JAZZ VS. WIZARDS
At Vivint Smart Home Arena
Tipoff • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 36-22; Wizards 21-36
Last meeting • Jazz, 127-116 (Jan. 12)
About the Jazz • Jazz have lost four in a row, all at home, after the All-Star break. The losing streak also means Jazz have lost 9 of their last 13 games, and have slipped into a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference. ... Since the All-Star break, the Jazz have allowed opponents to score 119.5 points per game, shooting over 50% from the field and 45% from 3-point range.
About the Wizards • Star PG John Wall is out all season due to an Achilles tendon tear. ... Wizards have lost three of four since All-Star break, but won their most recent contest against Brooklyn. ... Bradley Beal scored 53 and 55 points in two of those losses, to the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks. ... Wizards’ defense is ranked 30th in the NBA this season.