Joe Ingles said that “the first 48 hours sucked” because of the self-isolation, and lamented that with his hotel room window sealed shut, “it’s gonna get a bit stanky at times” over the next couple months. Donovan Mitchell, meanwhile, already found himself fighting the “temptation to have snacks.”
Those small inconveniences aside, though, both Utah Jazz starters are pretty happy with how the team’s first few days in the NBA ‘bubble’ have gone, they said in Zoom calls with media on Friday evening.
Especially because of how the team has looked on the court in its two practices thus far.
Ingles was particularly pleased with everyone’s playbook retention level, noting that it’s been easier to get off and running into what they need to do as a result of not having to spend much time on review.
“I guess you just never know when you come out on the floor for the first time in a few months or whatever to play competitively what it’s really gonna look like, and I mean [Thursday], for what it’s worth, I thought it was really good,” Ingles said. “… I was really impressed with the IQ of the guys to remember a lot of what we what we wanted to run after having such a big break.”
Mitchell agreed, noting that “guys have been really locked in” thus far. He also credited the coaching staff for holding a few Zoom sessions during the hiatus to ensure that the players stayed on top of things. He noted that “even the rookies have been have been ahead of the game.”
Beyond that, the All-Star guard also mentioned how big it is that everyone took their training seriously during the time away.
“Conditioning, too, has been a big standout for sure,” Mitchell said.
Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley and Quin Snyder all mentioned Thursday that a decent portion of that initial practice was dedicated to simply letting players get after it, to put some matchups together and see what happened, to revert back to being physical.
“It’s been really cool to get back out there and compete with the guys and talk a bit of s---,” Ingles said with a laugh.
Friday’s session, meanwhile, also entailed some more conditioning and contact work, so that players can make the leap from “in shape to game shape,” as Mitchell put it.
But it was a little bit different, too.
“A little more structured today,” Mitchell said. “… The difference today is we kind of put different schemes in, different lineups in just so guys to get a feel for another again, because it’s been, you know, three, four months.”
Some of that has been preparing for the absence of the injured Bojan Bogdanovic, who is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing thumb surgery in May.
Ingles noted that the team will miss him on both ends of the court — “I thought defensively, rebounding, he was probably better than what people anticipated” — though, obviously, the impact will be most felt on the offensive end. Given that the team had so many schemes designed specifically for Bogdanovic, adjusting for his absence will take some work.
That said, he expects Jazz fans will see a much different Conley once play resumes.
“I’m really excited for Mike to have the ball more and be able to do what he’s done his whole career,” Ingles said.
In the meantime, as the Jazz get acclimated to team basketball once again, both Ingles and Mitchell said they’re trying to find ways to settle into a unique situation.
“I mean, honestly, for me, it’s like AAU, really. You know, except for the quarantine part. But it’s been like AAU — I’ve been just relaxing, studying film, and just trying to eat as good as I possibly can,” Mitchell said. “… I’m just staying mentally ready, mentally engaged because I can’t tell you the last time I’ve had practice at 6 o’clock every night. It gives you that feeling of an AAU summer camp or a summertime vibe.”
As for Ingles, there were no similar tales of culinary caution with the quarantine now over.
“It was frustrating staying in a room for two days, but I think as eager as we were to get here and play, it probably matters a little bit more when you’re sitting in that room,” he said. “So obviously, now things have changed a little bit, and we can get around a little bit, there’s some restaurants on the on the campus we can eat at and get takeaway and stuff from. Yeah, the first two days in that room were interesting.”