In addressing select Utah media in a videoconference chat on Tuesday afternoon, Utah Jazz VP Dennis Lindsey acknowledged the inherent weirdness of the ongoing NBA shutdown.
What, exactly, is everyone up to during this time with no games going on, and no sense of when the draft or free agency might begin?
Players, of course, are working out to the degree they can, but unless you’re Rudy Gobert or Mike Conley and have self-contained gyms and workout facilities at your residence, there are even challenges to that.
As for the rest of team personnel, well, Lindsey said it effectively comes down to an attempt at mining some modicum of normalcy from a highly abnormal situation.
Intra- and inter-departmental Zoom meetings have become the norm. He praised coach Quin Snyder for keeping up “the engagement and the connectivity with the team,” even with players scattered throughout the country. Snyder even went so far as to book U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, as a guest speaker to address the team.
Lindsey also cited the synergy between the player development/health performance side and the bench coaches. Individual players have been evaluated, as have collective units. He noted that, with no playoffs ongoing and no Chicago combine to attend, he personally has been doing a deep dive into video and statistical work — that is, when he’s not on one of the myriad general managers’ calls or board of governors’ calls that are increasingly taking place.
All those different tasks to juggle could be daunting. Conversely, Lindsey suggested the Jazz are “excited,” for a myriad of reasons.
“We're excited about the opportunities to bring our players back here safely and take the first small step towards returning to play — whenever that happens,” he said. “I don't want to speak for other professions, but I think I can speak safely for our profession: We miss the competition, we miss the camaraderie. I think you will see a group of players — speaking inside the Utah Jazz, specifically — that will be grateful to get back to work, to perform in front of their fans.
“There's always a psychological element to work and being able to provide for your family,” Lindsey added, “and I think that this pause that we've had inside the COVID-19 hiatus has truly given all of us inside the Utah Jazz a real gratitude for our work.”
And so, the work continues, as best it can given the limitations of the day.
Lindsey himself is trying to balance sometimes-competing factors of both present and future performance, in terms of maintaining fitness and readiness for 2019-20, preparing for the draft, whenever that might be, staying abreast of how lost revenue will impact the coming salary cap and resulting free agency decisions.
Elsewhere in the organization, Lindsey noted that Snyder has been working especially closely with Mike Elliott (Vice President of Performance Health Care) and Jeff Watkinson (assistant coach — applied/integrated player development) in coming up with conditioning drills and development work to keep players as ready to go as possible in case the season starts up again.
Not that Lindsey has any inside intel on the possibility of that occurring. Still, he said, the league being nimble and declining to put hard-and-fast (and artificial) deadlines in place doesn’t merely keep options open, it has the side benefit of giving “the players some hope that we're going to try to salvage a piece of the season, whether it's all of the season or, at the most, a truncated playoff.”
As for whether it’s even a worthwhile endeavor at this point to try to salvage anything of the 2019-20 campaign, Utah’s key decision-maker is of the opinion that it is.
“As far as my opinion, whether the league should try to come back, it’s overlaid simply by, ‘Can we come back safely?’ If the health permits, then let’s try to come back,” Lindsey said. “I’m all for naming a champion, even if it’s a truncated champion. Those teams that are in the midst of playoff chases and championship chases, we want to compete and name a champion.”